Tonight, my friend Ania Szado is launching her new book. Studio Saint-Ex is a historical novel that sews together WWII fashion design, French ex-pats waiting out the war in New York City, and the famous fighter pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince. It's steamy (love triangle!) and it's smart (what is the difference between creative inspiration and theft?).
Tonight I will be toasting the book's release. But, more importantly, I will be celebrating my dear friend and writing companion. I met Ania when we were both entering the UBC Optional Residency MFA in Creative Writing. I had published no fiction; Ania had already published the acclaimed novel Beginning of Was (recently re-released by Penguin Canada) that wound up being nominated for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. But we both had ambitions to change our commitment to writing and the quality of the stories that we made.
I don’t know if I would have been able to write Sleeping Funny without Ania. She and I did not read each other’s manuscripts before they were accepted for publication, but she helped me tremendously as we worked alongside each other. Sometimes that encouragement was a lot of fun: box wine and walks on the beach at Ania’s cottage. Sometimes it was the prescription for desperation: (Me: I feel like I am going to be locked up, banging my head against the wall; She: It’s OK, the walls are soft and you have me for company). What can I say? She kept me going. Not by making it all look easy – but by showing me that I could push through the parts that were hard. Because she did. Because she was.
So here’s to Ania Szado and to all the great things that are being said about Studio Saint-Ex here in Canada (and that will be said in the United States and several other countries where the book will be released very soon). And here’s to the hard work, the late nights, the hair-tearing and the sweat, that go into making a polished, engaging story. Because none of that effort is revealed in the writing, of course. Writers like Ania are too good to let that show. But it’s there. And for me, that makes the book, and the author, all the more beautiful.