Aspen Words director Adrienne Brodeur to publish memoir
October 14, 2017
Adrienne Brodeur, executive director of the literary nonprofit Aspen Words, will publish her memoir "Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me" with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
As first reported by Publisher's Weekly, the book drew bids from 14 publishers and earned Brodeur an unspecified seven-figure advance. Foreign rights for the U.K., Germany and Brazil also quickly sold at auction.
"I'm trying to write a beautiful, thoughtful book, but I had no expectations of this kind of interest and amount, certainly," Brodeur said in a phone interview.
The memoir is about her relationship with her mother, who — as Brodeur wrote in a New York Times "Modern Love" column five years ago — married her then-husband's widowed mother in the 1990s.
"It's about an extremely complicated mother-daughter relationship and the way that trauma is passed down from generation to generation," Brodeur said.
The publisher has compared the memoir to contemporary classics like Jeannette Walls' "The Glass Castle" and Alexandra Fuller's "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight."
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As her book proposal and sample pages made the rounds to publishers, Brodeur was surprised by the visceral and personal reactions her story elicited.
"So many people were telling me their own mother-daughter stories," she said. "There is some kind of connection going on. … I'm in the process of writing what I think is a literary and very singular and specific story. So it was shocking that as many people were interested in it."
Brodeur said the memoir is currently in early rough-draft form. She expects to work on it for another year. She began shopping it to publishers early this summer, she said, as she started itching to work with an editor on the manuscript.
Her work with Aspen Words, she said, convinced her to put the book out there early in the creative process.
"It was the encouragement of the community of Aspen — people saying, 'You can sell memoirs if you have some beautiful pages and an outline,'" she said. "Being with Aspen Words has been so inspiring because we've had so many writers coming through and talking about their processes and how they did it."
Working with aspiring and emerging writers in Aspen also pushed her to begin writing the book, Brodeur said: "It was, in part, advising other people and realizing that I could do it myself."
Though it appears "Wild Game" will be a major release from Harcourt, and is likely to bring Brodeur international attention as an author, she said she will not be leaving Aspen Words.
"I am 100 percent committed to running Aspen Words," she said. "No part of me is leaving."
Brodeur, who co-founded Zoetrope magazine with Francis Ford Coppola and wrote the 2005 novel "Man Camp," joined Aspen Words in 2013.
About a year and a half ago, Brodeur went to a writer's residency at Hedgebrook in Washington State. There, she spent two weeks focusing solely on what would become "Wild Game." Knowing that another long stretch of time devoted to writing would be difficult to carve out in her schedule — given her obligations to her family and to Aspen Words — she started chipping away at the manuscript in the mornings. Since then, Brodeur has written daily from about 4:45 a.m. to 6:45 a.m., piling up pages before her son wakes up and her administrative duties at the literary nonprofit begin.
And those duties are considerable these days. The organization is expected to soon announce its author lineup for the annual Winter Words series. It also is in the process of launching the new Aspen Literary Prize, a $35,000 annual award for a work of fiction that addresses a vital contemporary issue. Brodeur said Aspen Words will unveil a long list of finalists for the inaugural prize at the end of November.
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