The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing: On my forthcoming memoir, The Good Shufu: A Wife in Search of a Life Between East & West (Putnam Press)

Tracy in MiajimaBeing a gaijin wife in Osaka, I can be pretty out of it. I’d never heard of “The Next Big Thing,” or even knew what a “blog meme” was, until the lovely Jocelyn Eikenburg set me straight.  She’s the author of the forthcoming book Red All Over, a memoir of finding love and home in China; about, as she has written, “what happens when you let go of every expectation you had about life, love and even your own wedding, and just learn to listen to your heart and say ‘I do’ to the people, places and possibilities that really matter.” Jocelyn has been one of the most enthusiastic and supportive friends and fellow writers I’ve met online since my unexpected book deal landed in my lap!

She’s also a smart and funny and a beautiful writer, and if you don’t know about her and her blog Speaking of China, then you are missing out.

As for this “Next Big Thing,” it involves answering a few questions and then sharing the love by tagging another writer you admire, which I do below:

What is your working title of your book (or story)?

The Good Shufu: A Wife in Search of a Life Between East & West

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Well, the basic idea came from my falling madly in love with the least likely person in the world: a Japanese salaryman who could barely speak English (and I spoke no Japanese).

The book is about what happens when you are a Boston-based, skeptical, plan-obsessed, feminist literary academic who meets the love of your life, but being together means you must give up every plan or goal you’ve ever had and essentially forfeit your own world for his.

Ultimately, though, it’s the story of finding love and meaning in a foreign language, as well as hope and happiness amidst the boatload of loss and confusion that we call real life. (Here’s the full overview.)

What genre does your book fall under?


Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Really??? I need to finish writing the book first before I can even start to think about this one. Now, if you’re asking what I’d want to wear on the red carpet, that’s another story. But don’t get me started, or I may just stop writing and click over to some online shopping sites, just to see what they….

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The Good Shufu a true story about finding love, meaning, hope, and self in the least likely places in the world: the places we always swore we’d never go.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The Good Shufu is forthcoming from Penguin’s Putnam imprint in 2015. It’s represented by the very, very wonderful Rachel Sussman of Chalberg & Sussuman.

And I’m still in shock and awe over all of this!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Oooh, check back in, let’s say, 7 months? The full draft is due to my editor at Putnam, the incredible Sara Minnich, in January 2014.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I started writing the book at the tail end of 4+ brutal years of fertility treatments and 2 pretty heart-rending pregnancy losses, all undergone in Japan (and I still speak virtually no Japanese). I hadn’t written anything—I mean anything—in a few years because of the stress of this medical issue. And then one day, just off the cuff, I sent a pitch to the editor of the New York Times Motherlode blog about the difference between the desire to have a biological child and the desire to be a parent.

She published the piece (although with a much different title than the one I had chosen), and a few days later, an editor at Putnam emailed me and asked if I’d be interested in submitting a memoir proposal. I was shocked! And delighted! And still totally infertile! So while all I wanted to do was crawl under the covers and hide from the world and my twice-daily-in-the-stomach-blood-thinner shots that my clinic in Osaka thought I needed to have any chance of sustaining a pregnancy, I signed up for a course on nonfiction proposal writing through MediaBistro, wrote a proposal and four sample chapters, submitted it to Putnam, and they offered me a deal!

I was shocked! And delighted! And still totally infertile!

But working on this book has been one kind of godsend, because it has helped me cope with coming to terms with turning 45 and abandoning our medical quest to try to have a child—an issue I write about towards the end of the memoir.

As my husband says, “If we can have baby, that will be like miracle. But it will still only be like dessert, because you’ll always be the main course.”

So, despite some of the sadness of the past few years, how can I not feel like the luckiest girl in the world?

Now, I’m excited to introduce Kaitlin Solimine, another recent friend and fellow writer whom I’m honored to follow and know! She’s an award-winning writer about China, a former U.S. Department of State Fulbright Creative Arts Fellow, and the 2010 Donald E. Axinn Scholar in Fiction at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Most recently, she was the March 2012 guest editor for the magazine Cha: An Asian Literary Journal , and I got to hear her give an incredible reading from her forthcoming novel at the Four Stories Boston 2013 opening night, an MP3 of which is posted here. Rumor has it, she attracted some publishing interest at this event, which doesn’t surprise me one bit!

13 thoughts on “The Next Big Thing

  1. Tracy, thanks for the amazing introduction! And I’m with Susan — love what you’ve shared here! Your voice comes through as so personable, friendly and unpretentious — really, the best kind of narrator in my opinion — and I just can’t wait to eventually read your book.

    I am also looking forward to reading what Kaitlin posts as well! I’ve read the short description at her website and it has totally piqued my curiosity!


    1. Thanks, Jocelyn! I was having blog-meme-envy and insecurity trying to follow up on your awesome Next Big Thing thing, but you’ve made me feel a little better! And so honored to have been introduced by none other than fabulous, fabulously impressive you.


      1. Thanks Tracy, that’s really sweet of you to say! But honestly, I don’t think I could ever upstage you. I am so in awe of your writing talent and have so much respect for what you’ve done with Four Stories, not to mention your book deal and the NYTimes article that started it all.


      2. Oh Jocelyn, you are like some kind of holistic, organic version of Prozac! I so appreciate your sweet support. I’m also struck by how much traffic your blog seems to drive to mine. So I’m wondering how you’ve gone about building such a following, both on your blog and twitter? I’m really impressed with both and know that the Putnam publicity team will want me to achieve something similar when my book comes out, or before if possible. What do you think of doing a guest post on The Good Shufu about building your connections? (I know we’re supposed to say “platform” but that word bugs me.) I think a lot of writers would be really interested to hear from you on how you’ve done this, esp. before you’ve even gotten a book deal–that’s so impressive! And I know it will make you attractive to a lot of agents/publishers. I know I have good connections through Four Stories (and I think this is one reason I got a deal as a 1st-time author w/out the full manuscript) but building up connections through blogs and twitter seems, in some ways, like it could be much harder b/c there are so many other blogs and twitter streams out there, so I’m especially impressed with you!


  2. Hey Tracy, it would be an honor to do a guest post for your blog on that subject! Let’s discuss it more offline, perhaps by e-mail?

    And likewise, I’d love to have you do a guest post on my blog down the road, if you’d ever be interested. I’ve found that Japanese culture is so close to Chinese culture, so your experiences would easily resonate w/ my readers. A lot of people who visit my blog are just huge supporters of relationships between Asian men and Western women (AMWW or just AMWF – Asian Male, White Female) so you’d be a welcome voice.

    Regardless I’d also be happy to plug your book on my site for similar reasons — even if it’s just a quick review or something.


  3. Hi Tracy- Thank you for visiting my blog today and “liking” my “The Next Big Thing”. I have someone to share with you, another American writer living in Japan,Leza Lowitz, do you know of her? I think you each would enjoy each others company, and life story. She owns and runs a yoga studio in Tokyo: She has a special piece she wrote about adoption in Japan that printed in Shambhala Sun:… .I wish you the best in all things and look forward to your book! Many Blessings. Stephanie Renee dos Santos


    1. Hi Stephanie. Thanks for your note! Leza is actually a good friend of mine. Funny what a small world it is, despite its large geography!

      Wishing you all the best, looking forward to keeping in touch, and thanks so much for your kind words about the book.



      1. Tracy- Wonderful — big small world! Another funny connection is I was part of a blog hop with Kaitlin Solimine! And I lived in China, in the province of Yunnan for 6 months back in 1999. Again, looking forward to your book– happy writing! Best, Stephanie


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