Sally Koslow Writes the Book on Reinvention

Mary Dell writes: Sally Koslow is a friend and was my writing teacher at Sarah Lawrence College.  The story of her success, including the publication this month of The Widow Waltz, and dark moments of her career are an inspiring story of reinvention.  She spills all:

Sally Koslow, Sally Koslow's The Widow Waltz, reinvention, summer fiction


From Sally Koslow:

Once upon a time—a long time, 30+ years—I was a magazine editor, the job for which I felt I was born. A shy kid, I learned to manage that handicap as I scaled the consecrated trajectory of high school newspaper editor/college English major/hometown newspaper intern/college town newspaper obit writer/moony poet. By the time I presented my still-reserved Midwestern self to Manhattan’s Conde Nast–which I was too big of a yokel at 21 to realize was the ooh-la-la of publishing companies–I had a fat portfolio of clippings. They helped land a job at Mademoiselle, a powder puff-y magazine with a literary edge: Sylvia Plath had once been a guest editor and the masthead prided itself on back-in-the-day, publishing the likes of Truman Capote and W.H. Auden and at the moment, Barbara Kingsolver and Jane Smiley.

In the 70s intense female ambition hadn’t yet reared its feverish head. No one expected to reach the top fast. Or ever. This allowed me to loll around MLLE until after having a child at 28, I became a freelance writer. When my son was four I returned to another magazine staff and began to rise in various ranks until McCall’s anointed me as its editor-in-chief in 1994.

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Reading on Your Mind with these Best Books

Lisa writes: December is book month whether buying gifts for others or just looking for something to curl up with over the holidays.  So in the spirit of the season, here are a few titles that we want to share, ones we put in the category of “best books.”  Some are new, some are not.  There is fiction and fact and the only common ground is that we loved them all.


Helen Simonson
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (2012)

I love small stories writ large, tiny worlds carefully constructed by truly gifted writers in which, as the reader, I can transplant myself.  Helen Simonson’s first outing gives us such a world and that rarity of rarities, a true midlife love story.  Major Pettigrew is stuffy old Britain, a man who finds it easier to show his love for his treasured Churchill rifles than his son.  Mrs Ali is the new Britain, worldly, industrious and passionate in her love of family. These two characters, the embodiment of two eras, bring out the very best in each other.  Simonson’s sense of humor  emerges in a very funny undercurrent as we see her American characters through very British eyes.  As an American who long lived in England, I did not know whether to blush or apologize. This is a book without artifice.  If you are tired of reading books of contrived youthful passion and instead want a tale of real adult love, Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali will not let you down.


Laine Moriarty

What Alice Forgot (2011)

This is a beach book, in the very best page-turning sense of the word, for reading even when there is no beach. Ever wondered what would happen if you could rewind the tape on your life and figure out where things went wrong? Ever wonder about friendships lost or marriages heading down the wrong path? Liane Moriarty’s Alice has settled into middle age.  She is tough on her kids and at the end of her rope with her husband.  And then, in that otherwise contrived twist that in fiction we readily accept, she hits her head and the rewind button. Alice is 39 but thinks she is 29 and is forced to look at the decisions she has made over that eventful decade.  For anyone who has ever wanted a do over, or just greater clarity for how life turned out like it did, this is your fantasy.


Sally Koslow

Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty-Nest (2012)

We featured Sally Koslow here because we love her and love her writing.  Mary Dell had the privilege of taking some of Sally’s superb writing courses (she works one on one in person and remotely if anyone wants to walk in Mary Dell’s shoes) and then later acting as an author’s assistant on this wonderful volume.  If you find that you have raised “adultescents,” young people seemingly caught in that limbo between adulthood and adolescence or fear that is who you are in the process of raising, Sally’s tale is for you.  She brings the hard nosed research of a journalist and the warm heart of a mother to her analysis of why our kids can’t/won’t grow up and what we should do about it. Sally is not afraid to pull punches with a generation of parents who have overindulged their offspring leaving them unable to move forward.  She gives us a verbal slap on the wrist with my favorite line directed at her fellow baby boomer parents, “Step away from the kid.”


Roger Rosenblatt

Making Toast (2008)

Roger Rosenblatt, writing professor, journalist, playwright and author of 14 titles, knows his way around a sentence and a story.  But this is his story, the story of the aftermath of the tragic loss of his daughter, a young mother and a pediatrician. While the sadness of that event never lifts, the story of how he and his wife step into their daughter’s household and help their grieving son- in-law and grandchildren is a tale of family love that will never leave you. In this short memoir Rosenblatt studies his own grief, belief in God, and bubbling anger. He returns to being a full time parent when he thought his parenting days were over.  If you love a wonderful memoir, there can be no better tale than this, but if you love exceptional writing, this is the art at its very best.  In his follow up book, Kayak Morning: Reflections on Love, Grief and Small Boats, Rosenblatt writes, “When you love someone, every moment is shadowed by the fear of loss, and when the loss occurs you feel more love than ever.” Making Toast is very much a love story of a man towards the daughter and family he holds so dear.


Will Schwalbe

The End of Your Life Book Club (2012)

Another family memoir, also beautifully written, but this time roles are reversed.  Will Schwalbe, publishing editor and food blogger, tells the story of his mother, the former director of Admissions at Harvard and a tireless advocate for refugees in far flung locales, and her battle with pancreatic cancer. Mother and son, lovers of literature both, meet for her chemo treatments and in the long hours of hospital waiting begin their own book club.  This is a world class reading list nestled inside the tale of what two avid readers learned about life and death from their love of books.  Spoiler alert: one of the reasons that I loved this heartfelt tale is that mother and son discuss three of my all time favorite books. Once the literary pair mentioned Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety (1987) Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead (2004) and John O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra (1934) they had me.   If you love reading then you cannot help but love an author who writes, “Reading isn’t the opposite of doing, it’s the opposite of dying.”


Lee Woodruff

Those We Love Most (2012)

If this title had not been written by Lee Woodruff, fellow Westchester-ite and well known philanthropist, journalist and advocate, I would not have touched it.  In this tale of family love and healing is the one topic I find almost impossible to read about, the death of a child. But Woodruff is determined that her book should not be seen as a “sad” book but rather the story of how families cause each other pain, endure grief, and grow from the experience and in this, she succeeds.  Her characters are like us, good people, flawed in their love for each other, all the while struggling to be better.  To my ear, she tells the story of midlife marriage, with its deep love and understanding and its tug of war of expectations and hopes in perfect pitch. Through her characters we see the entire arc of marriage and how different generations have lived through  the gleeful early days onto a midlife lull with its threat of infidelity and finally, hopefully, true love and understanding.


Please add to our list and tell us your favorite books below.

Books we love

Sally Koslow, Slouching Toward Adulthood

Sally Koslow, our friend and author

This weekend, Viking published an amazing book by our good friend, the first-rate writer Sally Koslow.  The subject is our kids, all of ours, and the title is Slouching Toward Adulthood, Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest.  Sally looks at the epidemic of boomerang kids with the tough eye of a journalist and the warm heart of a mother.

Sally Koslow, Slouching Toward Adulthood, empty nest, boomerang kids


We love Sally’s book and hope you will read it. Her story is as important for parents with two-year olds or twenty-two year olds, as she examines the arc of parenting. We chatted with Sally (photo credit: Robert Koslow) about the behind-the-scenes story of the book, and part 2 of the interview follows. She has kindly offered two signed copies of her book to subscribers of Grown and Flown.  Details follow the interview.

Grown and Flown’s exclusive interview with Sally Koslow – part 2

In your final chapter you dip your toe into the water of suggestions for those who are slouching toward adulthood by “….wishing that more adultescents would stop pretending that procrastination represents moral superiority and just try to get on with it.” Were you ever tempted to cross the line and, in a mom-like manner, grip a young person by the shoulders and tell them just that? I did not want to be a self-help Barbie but I wished I could have given some of the interviewee subjects motherly advice. Some adultescents I interviewed struck me as sad and lost. However, lives have already changed in some cases. One frustrated young man wandering from job to job in Colorado, for example, has now finished the first year of social work graduate school.

You say that you fear that “years from now many of them, along with their tottering parents, won’t look in their rearview mirrors and wish they’d done a few things differently.” Any suggestions for how we can get our grown but not yet flown kids to realize this?
Give them Slouching Toward Adulthood to read. It includes many cautionary tales.

Much of the blame for our adultescents slow maturation lies squarely with us baby boomer parents. What advice would you give to millennials who are parents of younger children to avoid some of our pitfalls? Expect kids to be responsible for cleaning their rooms, making their beds, and performing other jobs around the house. As they get older, teach them to perform practical tasks, like how to do laundry or set a table and to be responsible for completing homework without parental help or nagging. When they get to be teenagers, encourage them to get jobs—i.e, babysitting or shoveling snow for neighbors. Don’t feel guilty if you can’t send your child to the fanciest summer camp or offer them every lesson. Be a loving parent without giving your kids the impression that the sun rises and sets around them.

How do you know that we Boomers got it right? We were supposed to save the world, not sure we succeeded? Is there something we should be learning from our adultescents? 
How to update the way we dance.

A Gift for You from Sally
Sally was kind enough to give us two signed copies of Slouching Toward Adulthood, Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest and we hope to give them away to you, our readers.  In order to become eligible for our giveaway and a chance to receive one of Sally’s autographed books, either leave us your email address through the subscribe button on the right (you can always unsubscribe later if you want) or leave a comment on this or any other post.  We will contact the two winners on Saturday, June 30, 2012,  and mail them their copies of this wonderful book. You must be a resident of the US or Canada and you must leave us your email address (no one can see it if you enter it into subscribe) or how else can we reach you to tell you that you have won?

Sally Koslow on the Today Show, 6/19/12

Slouching Toward Adulthood by Sally Koslow

This weekend, Viking published an amazing book by our good friend, the first-rate writer Sally Koslow.  The subject is our kids, all of ours, and the title is Slouching Toward Adulthood, Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest.

Sally Koslow, Slouching Toward Adulthood, empty nest

Sally (photo credit: Robert Koslow) looks at the epidemic of boomerang kids with the tough eye of a journalist and the warm heart of a mother. With a combination of zinging humor and good old fashion research Sally explains why many kids never seem to leave, or if they do, why they come right back.

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