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Jen’s Jewels with Nina Stibbe

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014



As mothers, we always want what is best for our kids. This especially applies when searching for a suitable caregiver. Whether it’s a temporary babysitter or a full-time nanny, this specially selected person undertakes the responsibility of nurturing our children in our absence. Being able to forge a unique bond with this individual enables both parties to feel loved and respected. After all, we are in it together as one family, so to speak.

This month’s Jen’s Jewels Nina Stibbe addresses this very topic in her new memoir, Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home. In a collection of unedited, original letters written to her sister, Nina shares her real-life experiences as a nanny to a prominent family in London in the 1980’s. With humorous stories of the two mischievous boys in her charge peppered with tender moments shared with their mum, she gives a brutally honest account of her unforgettable adventures.

As part of my interview, Little, Brown and Company has generously donated five copies for my readers to win in the trivia contest that follows the interview. Winners will be randomly drawn. Be sure to keep up-to-date on all the latest news in the publishing business by stopping by www.jennifervido.com, follow me on Facebook jennifervido.com, or on Twitter and Pinterest @JenniferVido. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels the ultimate source for news on the web for today’s hottest authors.

Jen: As a commissioning editor, your personal journey to publication is a story in itself. So that my readers may catch a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words, please briefly share with us your educational and professional background.
Nina: At age 15, I was somehow entered for the less academic school examinations and left school in a huff without taking any exams at all. I already had a pocket-money job cleaning in a geriatric nursing home so I extended my hours there and joined the adult world. A couple of years later many of my friends were preparing to leave our village to go to university and I came to regret my hasty decision to leave school.

I realized – a bit late – that without my end of school exams I couldn’t go into higher education – – so I answered an advertisement in a magazine to be a nanny in London, which was the next best thing and at least meant I could leave home and have an adventure.

Once settled in my nanny job I met people who inspired me to catch up on my education and study in my spare time. I did this and eventually got a place at college and got my degree.

I then applied for assorted jobs and ended up working for Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich – an American company with a London office and finally became a commissioning editor. I’ve only ever worked in educational publishing (textbooks for teachers and students) and have had no experience of literary publishing, until now.

Jen: Please describe for us your “Aha!” moment when you decided to take the plunge and write a memoir about your experiences as a nanny in London.
Nina: There was no “Aha!” moment really. My book is made up of the letters I wrote to my sister between 1982 and 1887. Luckily my sister kept them and found them again years later when she moved house in 1999. She and I read many of them and found them charming and funny. They were put away again then until 2007, when Andrew O’Hagan (the British author) contacted me to ask if I’d contribute to a book of tributes to Mary-Kay Wilmers (editor of the London review of Books) who I had nannied for. I dug out one of the letters (one which offered an amusing and naïve description of Mary-Kay). Andrew included it in his collection. People liked it and it was then that I wondered about the possibility of publishing the letters as a book. So, maybe that was the “Aha!” moment.

Jen: In terms of nuts and bolts, approximately how long did it take for you to compile the letters? And, what was the most challenging part of the process?
Nina: I wrote the letters over a period of five years. Once Penguin, my UK publisher, got hold of them, my editor was determined to publish them unedited as far possible. I had imaged all kinds of tweaking, but no, we left them pretty much as I wrote them.

Jen: How did MK, Sam, and Will react to the news of being featured in this memoir? Did you meet any resistance?
Nina: The most challenging part of the publishing process was convincing Mary-Kay (who features significantly in the letters along with Sam and Will) to agree to the publication. At first she said “No way!” I think Sam and Will were cool with it. But Mary-Kay had serious misgivings. I’m not sure what changed her mind. Maybe me badgering her.

Jen: As a nanny back in 1982, what was your biggest challenge in terms of adjusting to minding two young boys, Will and Sam, in a busy city?
Nina: I suppose, if anything, the cooking. Not that I had to do all of it. But when it was my turn, I produced some very ropey meals. But I loved the family and being in London pretty much straight away. I came from a bustling chaotic household and so none of it felt particularly challenging.

Jen: Your relationship with each child was quite special; however, it seemed as if you and Sam shared a special bond. What brought you two together as cohorts in crime, if you will?
Nina: It might seem like that because I spent slightly more time with Sam due to him sometimes being off school and I may have mentioned him more in the letters. Actually Will was equally a partner in crime.

Jen: I was especially taken with MK’s witty repartee and hilarious comments (about your driving skills, for example) throughout the book. How did your relationship evolve over the years?
Nina: I settled in and was comfortable straight away. I got along with Mary-Kay because she was honest, straightforward and funny. There was no hierarchy or grandness. I felt like one of the family. I was an equal.

Jen: The cast of real life characters you encountered during your nanny experience was rather notable. Who among the crowd made the biggest impression on you?
Nina: There were lots of interesting people such as: Alan Bennett, Clare Tomalin, Michael Frayn, Karel Reisz, Deborah Moggach, Jonathan Miller, Stephen Frears but to be honest, I didn’t take much notice of them – in terms of their accomplishments – I just noted which of them could reverse-park a car or make a decent cup of tea or read a story to Sam when he was feeling poorly. Looking back though, it was an incredible group of people to live among.

Jen: If you could turn back the hands of time, what, if anything, would you have done differently?
Nina: I might take more of an interest in the above cast of characters and all their amazing achievements as they happened.

Jen: How has the book’s publication affected your relationship with MK, Sam, and Will?
Nina: I’ve been to London more often (I now live in Cornwall, the far south west of the UK and about 5 hours from London) for literary events, so I’ve seen Mary-Kay and Sam more often. Not Will though as he lives in the US. But, they’ve been so pleased and excited about it, it’s been good.

Jen: Let’s switch gears now and talk about your promotional plans. Please take us on a brief tour of your website highlighting points of interest.
Nina: My website is www.ninastibbe.com was created by my partner a year or so ago. I promised him I’d keep it up to date… it currently features some articles I wrote for the UK press and some reviews of Love, Nina in the UK. It’s a work in progress!

Jen: Are you present in social media? And, what is the best way for my readers to keep abreast of your latest news?
Nina: I’m @ninastibbe on twitter. I love Twitter and tweet lots of nonsense and pictures of my family and our cockapoo, Peggy. I’m less good at facebook and only follow one person, Sam (Frears) (so that I can see pictures of him rock climbing).

Jen: Are you currently at work on your next book? If so, what may you share with us?
Nina: My novel, Man at the Helm, comes out next year with Little, Brown.

Jen: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with my readers. Best of luck in all of your future projects!
Nina: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Nina. Please stop by your local bookstore, library, or online retailer and pick up a copy of Love, Nina today. Better yet, how would you like to win a free copy instead? Okay, send me an email at jensjewels@gmail.com with the correct answer to the following trivia question and you’ll be entered into the contest. Good luck! (Offer void where prohibited.)

What are the names of Nina’s two charges?

Next month, I will be chatting with Jan Elizabeth Watson about her upcoming release, What has Become of You. You won’t want to miss it.

One Maryland, One Book 2014

Monday, March 24th, 2014

The Maryland Center for the Book has announced that the selection for One Maryland One Book 2014 is The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande. (Find this book in our catalog)

The theme for 2014 is “the American Dream.” The titles suggested by the public last Fall touched on varied interpretations of the American Dream. The book selected by the committee covers a subject that we see frequently in the news today. Ms. Grande’s story is that of an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States when she was almost 10. The Distance Between Us tells her journey before and after coming to the U.S. She gained legal status at the age of 13. Today she teaches writing at UCLA Extension.

More information is available on the Maryland Humanities Council website. Click here for an interview from The Daily Beast with the author.

Editor

Stately Home Secrets

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Sometimes, it would seem, real life among the aristocracy of pre-World War I outdid the fictional lives of  TV’s Downton Abbey for family intrigues and tragic secrets.  The true story in The Secret Rooms: a true story of a haunted castle, a plotting duchess, and a family secret (find this book in our catalog) by Catherine Bailey is a case in point:

“For fans of Downton Abbey: the enthralling true story of family secrets and aristocratic intrigue in the days before WWI. After the Ninth Duke of Rutland, one of the wealthiest men in Britain, died alone in a cramped room in the servants’ quarters of Belvoir Castle on April 21, 1940, his son and heir ordered the room, which contained the Rutland family archives, sealed. Sixty years later, Catherine Bailey became the first historian given access. What she discovered was a mystery: the Duke had painstakingly erased three periods of his life from all family records-but why? As Bailey uncovers the answers, she also provides an intimate portrait of the very top of British society in the turbulent days leading up to World War I”– – (Baker & Taylor)

Catherine Bailey is an award-winning television producer and director of critically acclaimed documentary films inspired by her interest in twentieth-century history. She lives in London.

Editor

Oscar Nomations: Book-to-Film Adaptations

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Four of the nine best picture nominations for this year’s Academy Awards, which will be presented March 2, are based on books.

12 Years a Slave, based on the autobiography by Solomon Northup. (Find the book in our catalog)

Captain Phillips, based on A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips & Stephan Talty. (Find the book in our catalog)

The Wolf of Wall Street, based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir. (Find the book in our catalog)

Philomena, based on The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith.  (Find the book in our catalog)

Editor

Books in the News – Sister, Mother…

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Delia Ephron, author of Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc. (Find in our catalog) has been in the news, including MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

We have this book in our catalog together with book descriptions and reviews.  Go to the catalog to place a hold.

“In Sister Mother Husband Dog, Delia Ephron brings her trademark wit and effervescent prose to a series of autobiographical essays about life, love, sisterhood, movies, and family. In “Losing Nora,” she deftly captures the rivalry, mutual respect, and intimacy that made up her relationship with her older sister and frequent writing companion. “Blame It on the Movies” is Ephron’s wry and romantic essay about surviving her disastrous twenties, becoming a writer, and finding a storybook ending. “Bakeries” is both a lighthearted tour through her favorite downtown patisseries and a thoughtful, deeply felt reflection on the dilemma of having it all. From keen observations on modern living, the joy of girlfriends, and best-friendship, to a consideration of the magical madness and miracle of dogs, to haunting recollections of life with her famed screenwriter mother and growing up the child of alcoholics, Ephron’s eloquent style and voice illuminate every page of this superb and singular work.” (Penguin Putnam)

Editor

 

Alice Munro Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to Canadian author Alice Munro, “master of the contemporary short story,” according to the citation read by Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy.

In an interview after the announcement, Englund said, “I think no one has better deconstructed the central myth of modern romantic love; not just saying it means this or means that, but showing that people can feel very, very different things about it…. She is a fantastic portrayer of human beings.”

Munro’s books include:

 Dear Life.  “This collection of stories illuminates moments that shape a life, from a dream or a sexual act to simple twists of fate that turn a person out of his or her accustomed path and into another way of being. Set in the countryside and towns of Lake Huron, these stories about departures and beginnings, accidents, dangers, and homecomings both virtual and real, paint a portrait of how strange, dangerous, and extraordinary the ordinary life can be.”

 

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage.  “A superb new collection from one of our best and best-loved writers. Nine stories draw us immediately into that special place known as Alice Munro territory–a place where an unexpected twist of events or a suddenly recaptured memory can illumine the arc of an entire life.

The fate of a strong-minded housekeeper with a “frizz of reddish hair,” just entering the dangerous country of old-maidhood, is unintentionally (and deliciously) reversed by a teenaged girl’s practical joke. A college student visiting her aunt for the first time and recognizing the family furniture stumbles on a long-hidden secret and its meaning in her own life. An inveterate philanderer finds the tables turned when he puts his wife into an old-age home. A young cancer patient stunned by good news discovers a perfect bridge to her suddenly regained future. A woman recollecting an afternoon’s wild lovemaking with a stranger realizes how the memory of that encounter has both changed for her and sustained her through a lifetime.

Men and women are subtly revealed. Personal histories, both complex and simple, unfold in rich detail of circumstance and feeling. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage provides the deep pleasures and rewards that Alice Munro’s large and ever- growing audience has come to expect.” – (Random House, Inc.)

Runaway.  “In Alice Munro’s superb new collection, we find stories about women of all ages and circumstances, their lives made palpable by the subtlety and empathy of this incomparable writer.

The runaway of the title story is a young woman who, though she thinks she wants to, is incapable of leaving her husband. In “Passion,” a country girl emerging into the larger world via a job in a resort hotel discovers in a single moment of stunning insight the limits and lies of that mysterious emotion. Three stories are about a woman named Juliet–in the first, she escapes from teaching at a girls’ school into a wild and irresistible love match; in the second she returns with her child to the home of her parents, whose life and marriage she finally begins to examine; and in the last, her child, caught, she mistakenly thinks, in the grip of a religious cult, vanishes into an unexplained and profound silence. In the final story, “Powers,” a young woman with the ability to read the future sets off a chain of events that involves her husband-to-be and a friend in a lifelong pursuit of what such a gift really means, and who really has it.

Throughout this compelling collection, Alice Munro’s understanding of the people about whom she writes makes them as vivid as our own neighbors. Here are the infinite betrayals and surprises of love–between men and women, between friends, between parents and children–that are the stuff of all our lives. It is Alice Munro’s special gift to make these stories as vivid and real as our own.” – (Random House, Inc.)

The View from Castle Rock.  “In stories that are more personal than any that she’s written before, Alice Munro pieces her family’s history into gloriously imagined fiction. A young boy is taken to Edinburgh’s Castle Rock, where his father assures him that on a clear day he can see America, and he catches a glimpse of his father’s dream. In stories that follow, as the dream becomes a reality, two sisters-in-law experience very different kinds of passion on the long voyage to the New World; a baby is lost and magically reappears on a journey from an Illinois homestead to the Canadian border.

Other stories take place in more familiar Munro territory, the towns and countryside around Lake Huron, where the past shows through the present like the traces of a glacier on the landscape and strong emotions stir just beneath the surface of ordinary comings and goings. First love flowers under the apple tree, while a stronger emotion presents itself in the barn. A girl hired as summer help, and uneasy about her “place” in the fancy resort world she’s come to, is transformed by her employer’s perceptive parting gift. A father whose early expectations of success at fox farming have been dashed finds strange comfort in a routine night job at an iron foundry. A clever girl escapes to college and marriage.

Evocative, gripping, sexy, unexpected—these stories reflect a depth and richness of experience. The View from Castle Rock is a brilliant achievement from one of the finest writers of our time.”- (Random House, Inc.)

Too Much Happiness.  “In the first story a young wife and mother receives release from the unbearable pain of losing her three children from a most surprising source. In another, a young woman, in the aftermath of an unusual and humiliating seduction, reacts in a clever if less-than-admirable fashion. Other stories uncover the “deep-holes” in a marriage, the unsuspected cruelty of children, and how a boy’s disfigured face provides both the good things in his life and the bad. And in the long title story, we accompany Sophia Kovalevsky—a late-nineteenth-century Russian émigré and mathematician—on a winter journey that takes her from the Riviera, where she visits her lover, to Paris, Germany, and, Denmark, where she has a fateful meeting with a local doctor, and finally to Sweden, where she teaches at the only university in Europe willing to employ a female mathematician.

With clarity and ease, Alice Munro once again renders complex, difficult events and emotions into stories that shed light on the unpredictable ways in which men and women accommodate and often transcend what happens in their lives.

Too Much Happiness is a compelling, provocative—even daring—collection.” – (Random House, Inc.)

Editor

Hugo Award – Best SF Novel

Monday, September 30th, 2013

The winner for best novel was John Scalzi for Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas (Find this book in our catalog), described as a “sort of a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead for the SF crowd” because it “deconstructs the Star Trek mythos with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink” by focusing on “the ubiquitous disposable crewmen from USS Enterprise on the TV show, usually the first to die on any given mission.” – See more.

Catalog notes:  “Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expendedon avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.”(McMillan Palgrave)

Editor

Books in the News – Simple Dreams

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

On September 16, on Good Morning America interviewed Linda Ronstadt, author of Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir (Find this book in our catalog). Linda also appeared on Nightline and on Fresh Air.

This is what it says about the book in our catalog:

“Tracing the timeline of her remarkable life, Linda Ronstadt, whose forty-five year career has encompassed a wide array of musical styles, weaves together a captivating story of her origins in Tucson, Arizona, and her rise to stardom in the Southern California music scene of the 1960s and ’70s.

Linda Ronstadt was born into a musical family, and her childhood was filled with everything from Gilbert and Sullivan to Mexican folk music to jazz and opera. Her artistic curiosity blossomed early, and she and her siblings began performing their own music for anyone who would listen. Now, in this beautifully crafted memoir, Ronstadt tells the story of her wide-ranging and utterly unique musical journey.

Ronstadt arrived in Los Angeles just as the folkrock movement was beginning to bloom, setting the stage for the development of country-rock. As part of the coterie of like-minded artists who played at the famed Troubadour club in West Hollywood, she helped define the musical style that dominated American music in the 1970s. One of her early backup bands went on to become the Eagles, and Linda went on to become the most successful female artist of the decade.

In Simple Dreams, Ronstadt reveals the eclectic and fascinating journey that led to her long-lasting success, including stories behind many of her beloved songs. And she describes it all in a voice as beautiful as the one that sang “Heart Like a Wheel”—longing, graceful, and authentic.”(Simon and Schuster)

Editor

When Do You Audiobook?

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

A Bowker study commissioned by the Audio Publishers Association found that “among people who have recently bought audiobooks, 47% listen while commuting in a car, 25% while working around the house and 23% while exercising.”

HCPL stocks books to listen to in multiple formats that you can borrow for free – audiobooks on CD, pre-loaded audio devices called Playaways, MP3 CDs, and downloadable audiobooks playable on all kinds of devices.  Check with your local branch library.

Editor

Literary Fiction

Friday, July 26th, 2013

These three forthcoming literary fiction titles are garnering a lot of favorable attention.

The Returned by Jason Mott (Find in our catalog).  “Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time. Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep – flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.” – (Harlequin)

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (Find in our catalog).  “Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town—with Brown, who believes he’s a girl.

Over the ensuing months, Henry—whom Brown nicknames Little Onion—conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859—one of the great catalysts for the Civil War.

An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride’s meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.” – (Penguin Putnam)

Someone by Alice McDermott (Find in our catalog).  “An ordinary life—its sharp pains and unexpected joys, its bursts of clarity and moments of confusion—lived by an ordinary woman: this is the subject of Someone, Alice McDermott’s extraordinary return, seven years after the publication of After This. Scattered recollections—of childhood, adolescence, motherhood, old age—come together in this transformative narrative, stitched into a vibrant whole by McDermott’s deft, lyrical voice.

Our first glimpse of Marie is as a child: a girl in glasses waiting on a Brooklyn stoop for her beloved father to come home from work. A seemingly innocuous encounter with a young woman named Pegeen sets the bittersweet tone of this remarkable novel. Pegeen describes herself as an “amadan,” a fool; indeed, soon after her chat with Marie, Pegeen tumbles down her own basement stairs. The magic of McDermott’s novel lies in how it reveals us all as fools for this or that, in one way or another.

Marie’s first heartbreak and her eventual marriage; her brother’s brief stint as a Catholic priest, subsequent loss of faith, and eventual breakdown; the Second World War; her parents’ deaths; the births and lives of Marie’s children; the changing world of her Irish-American enclave in Brooklyn—McDermott sketches all of it with sympathy and insight. This is a novel that speaks of life as it is daily lived; a crowning achievement by one of the finest American writers at work today.” – (McMillan Palgrave)

Editor