Literary arts

Self-described bookworm

Former Taos News Editor Joan Livingston plans to read from her novel

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Taos author Joan Livingston typed the first draft of her latest self-published book, "The Sweet Spot," in 2004 with one hand. Just a few days prior, she was hit by a car in a crosswalk near her western Massachusetts home, where the novel takes place.

She broke her collarbone, which left her arm in a sling for weeks. “The driver didn’t see me. It definitely could have been worse," Livingston explained. "It took me less than two months to finish the draft. I was on a mission."

Such is the remarkable life of this 60-something New England mother of six. She’s a former award-winning managing editor of The Taos News, plus she's a self-publishing guru. She’ll read from “The Sweet Spot” Saturday (March 25), 2 p.m., at Op. Cit Bookstore, 124-A Bent St.

Noemi de Bodisco, the owner of Op. Cit. Books in Santa Fe and Tome on the Range in Las Vegas, began operating as Op. Cit. Taos after Moby Dickens Bookshop closed the first week of July 2016.

Livingston’s past book readings in Taos have included an impromptu bassoon concert for "Professor Groovy and Other Stories" and faux pot brownies for "Peace, Love, and You Know What," her novel set in a hippie crash pad. She said "The Sweet Spot" reading will be tame in comparison, but all bets are off. Livingston views the book reading as an opportunity to take the audience on a journey and to ask as well as answer questions about the book.

The author worked as a journalist for more than 30 years, first for the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she was an award-winning reporter, editor and columnist. She authors "The Write Stuff," a biweekly book review column in Tempo. Livingston said, "Reporting was the best thing I could have done. I listened to the way people talked and watched how they behaved. I paid attention. I wrote that all down.”

Livingston started self-publishing after many frustrating attempts with an agent to get published. "As I often tell would-be authors, there’s writing – and then there’s the business of writing. When I began writing novels in earnest 17 years ago, I had one model in mind: I get an agent, the agent gets me a contract with a publishing house, my book is a hit." With encouragement from a local successful self-published author, Livingston began publishing her work herself.

She is a self-described bookworm with silver hair, playful eyes and a quick wit. Livingston and her wood craftsman husband, Hank, live near Ranchos de Taos in a passive-solar home with a garden and killer views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. They peacefully coexist with a black cat named Two, who clearly favors Hank, and a tenacious unnamed pack rat who summers in their sumptuous garden and winters in the woodpile.

They landed in Taos after visiting friends who lived here. When they returned to their Massachusetts home, Joan asked Hank if he wanted to continue what they were doing for the next 10 years. He said, "No." They packed up their belongings, sold the house, moved across the country and never looked back. The year was 2006.

Hank continues to make beautiful furniture. Each of the couple's six children has in turn provided wood and shipping costs for their dad to handcraft something beautiful for their homes.

"The Sweet Spot" is dedicated to Joan Livingston's mother, who inspired her love of reading and is a supporter of her writing. The lead designer at The Taos News, Michelle Gutierrez, designed the book cover and typeface after she read the novel. The cover shows a serene pastoral scene that could be in the novel's Massachusetts setting.

Here’s a synopsis, provided by Livingston for "The Sweet Spot,” which is now available in paperback and on Amazon's e-book Kindle. Copies will be for sale at the reading.

"Edie St. Claire is smack in the middle of what’s going on in Conwell: her in-law’s general store, the Do-Si-Do Bar, and this small town’s biggest scandal in years. Her father is a crusty so-and-so who runs the town dump. Her wisecracking aunt is as fiery as her dyed red hair. Both live next to Edie and her young daughter. Edie is a woman on the go, pretty and direct, but she holds onto an old sadness: the death of her husband in Vietnam. She tries easing her grief with his married brother, Walker. But when the affair comes to a tragic end, Edie does her best to survive the blame with the help of her rough-sawn family and a badly scarred man who’s arrived for his fresh start."

For more information, contact the venue at (575) 751-1999.

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