Beyond FINESSE: Patry Francis and THE LIAR'S DIARY Blog Day
Patry, a new (young!) grandmother, beloved mom, talented writer, and one of the most insightful, generous people you’ll ever meet, was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago. After two surgeries her prognosis is encouraging but an additional surgery remains to be endured in March. A group of Patry’s friends initiated The Liar’s Diary Blog Day so all of Patry’s many fans can pitch in to help her promote her book simply by writing about the new edition of The Liar’s Diary that’s hitting bookstore shelves.
I discovered Patry’s inimitable blog, Simply Wait, in late 2005. Hooked, I read most of the archived posts, discovering along the way a gallery of New England folks, every-day people Patry so cleverly portrayed and obviously cherished. In the fall of 2005 Patry also wrote of the people of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; her memories of that city; and her and her husband’s interactions with Chris, a very special cab driver who went out of his way to help a couple of Yankees enjoy their week in the Crescent City:
“But when we drove past the neighborhood just beyond Louis Armstrong Park,” Patry wrote, “Chris’s expression changed. ‘There’s a whole generation out there that’s dying. People talk about the drugs and the guns, and yeah, those things are bad. But the real problem here is people got no hope. Can’t live without hope.’”
Hope. I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about hope lately. Chris was so right: We can’t live without it, at least not us stubborn Americans who so often exist for just one more stab at making our dreams come true. It’s what keeps us going. Long before her cancer diagnosis, Patry explored in her blog the constant flow of hopes and dreams that graced her life, that compelled her to stop and write it all out. By putting those fleeting images into words and by painting so many memorable portraits and scenes for her readers, Patry gave voice not only to her own hopes and dreams but to those of the colorful characters who peopled her memories, her workplace, her seaside town, her home. And by offering up those stories she did much more than simply air it all out and entertain passersby: She gave each of us permission to whisper or write or even blog about our own treasured dreams, our own hopes for “some day.”
We all cheered when Patry announced her book deal and wrapped up her waitressing job, though we knew we’d miss her tales from the weddings and christenings and other celebrations no one in actual attendance likely realized were so carefully observed; her insights into the lonely person at the back of the room touched by her kindness; her comical interactions with the boss, with the lady cook, with her co-conspirators/fellow waitresses; the way she put every good tip to very good use as a gesture of true appreciation. We loved it when she hung her worn work shoes up on a tree limb. And as one new year led to another we congratulated her on the publication of her first book, her adventures in New York, the birth of her beautiful grandson, her summer office on the back porch with her new laptop. She shared difficulties and downfalls and despair, too, like any good friend, and we rallied at such moments to remind her of the many reasons we love her. All along we kept in mind the stories she’d told us about family and friends and even casual acquaintances, about how she not only survived single motherhood but through it all learned to treasure the special gift of each of her loved ones. And we relished the special way Patry noted details of everyone she met and tied impressions into understandings about others and self that so many of us long to share.
And then Patry announced she’d been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Grieving and hopeful right along with her we sent her every type of well wishes and prayers and positive vibes we could to buoy her spirits and encourage her healing process along. What I personally did not expect was to read more rather than fewer posts on Patry’s blog, but I should’ve known better. As Patry recently wrote in a bittersweet post about rating one’s bliss:
“What I’ve missed from my waitressing days, and what the hospital provided was interaction with the wider world. People I didn’t know. Stories I hadn’t heard. Catalysts to insights and thoughts that stretched far beyond myself and my beloved few. The stream that becomes a vast, transformative river. In the hospital, I walked into that river again.”
As Patry writes and shares with us revelations from this new chapter of her life, we hang on to her every word. Through her posts since her diagnosis and initial surgeries, she’s revealed even more eloquently that daily doses of gratitude and awe are just as important as our cherished hopes and dreams. As her friend Chris in New Orleans put it:
“It’s okay though. I got my cab, and my little house, and a good family. Even got a little savings in the bank. Every morning I wake up, I wake up thankful.”
I’m thankful for Patry’s willingness to share so much of herself and her writings on her blog, and was very pleased to interview her for a Literary Mama profile published in early 2007, when the first edition of The Liar’s Diary hit bookstore shelves. I joined her blogging friends who preordered her book (“even before my mother did,” she joked), snatched it up the day it was released, or cherished a leisurely stroll into a local independent, thrilled to finally see that stunning cover among the hot new titles. As I wrote back then, The Liar’s Diary “confronts the question of loyalty to friends versus family in a plot-driven thriller involving a mysterious stranger, murder, and two conflicting takes on truth.” The Liar’s Diary is one of those books you stay up late reading, take along in the car, and can’t wait to get back to.
It’s so fitting that so many of the writers and bloggers Patry has inspired are writing today to spread the news about the release of the paperback edition of The Liar’s Diary, which sports its own stunning cover. To read more of these tributes, go to the amazing list of participants (which includes literary agents and editors and others in the biz as well as writers as diverse as Laura Benedict and Karen Dionne (both of whom helped spearhead this effort), Khaled Hosseini, and Jennifer Weiner) on Susan Henderson’s LitPark blog. Just scroll down past the fun photo of Patry enjoying her 2007 Literary Blues Pie with friends to see the official list of links.
To read more of Patry’s wonderful words, add Simply Wait to your blogroll, pick up your copy of The Liar’s Diary, and enjoy. You’ll be glad you did.
We love you, Patry!