Written in 2010, published in 2015
Yvette Nachmias-Baeu, Author Spotlight
Best Friends is a story of an unusual relationship between two gifted women who share their lives in a correspondence that spans three decades. It is autobiographical and yet it is also the memoir of a brilliant woman with remarkable vitality, whose life is continually interrupted and altered by bouts of schizophrenia. Overarching moments of shared experiences and gossip, Best Friends reveals a period of time, a now almost distant history, filled with personal and social transformations that affected our lives. I was deeply moved by the story of Beth’s yearning to become a great writer which perhaps has been realized in the pages of Best Friends.
Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about author Yvette Nachmias-Baeu whose book Best Friends moved and charmed me from beginning to end. I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love memoirs but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight for Yvette, a biography of the author and an interview between me and Yvette will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful Yvette!
Yvette Nachmias-Baeu has led an eclectic life. She has been a psychiatric nurse, a professional actress, an advertising producer at a major New York agency, a farmer, and a creative entrepreneur. Founder of the South County Montessori School, she met her husband while working as an administrator at Brown University, and joined him in creating an importing business which allowed for years of memorable travel abroad. Her first book, A Reluctant Life, a memoir about the death of her husband and the process of grief, won honorable mention at the New England Book Festival. Clara at Sixty is the fictionalized sequel. Best Friends is her third non-fiction book. She continues to write and lives in New England at the edge of a waterfall.
Now, how wonderful does Yvette sound?! Yvette is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of Yvette’s work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between me and Yvette, I hope that you enjoy Yvette’s answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!
Could you please tell us readers about your book and what inspired you to write your book?
While researching for a book I was interested in writing, I came across a file of letters written to and from a woman who had been my best friend years ago.The letters which had been forgotten, still remained in my file drawer. I sat down and read them over the course of an evening, reminding me of a time gone by and written over the course of twenty-seven years. I had lost touch with my friend many years ago because she had disappeared due to a bout of Schizophrenia from which she did not recover. I had searched for her many times without success and after reading these letters searched again, only to discover that she had died six years ago. Her tragedy became so vivid that I felt I needed to honor her life, which had, before her illness, been vivid and brilliant.
What would your advice be for aspiring writers?
Writing is a tool for those who find solace in words and stories and find this outlet to be the most profound way to view life and to make sense of it. There is no advice I can give, but to exercise that need by honing one’s skills and spending time in the comforting solitude of one’s imagination. If you want to write…then you must read. Reading is by far the most inspirational way to one’s own writing. Reading other people’s work helps to guide you into your own style, to de-construct a story and analyze the different styles and forms that create a well-written piece.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing about a book?
The ability to amuse, hold one’s interest, present a new way of viewing life, capturing a moment that resonates, presenting something old in a completely new way. These are some of the ingredients that make a book readable and memorable.
What is your writing process like?
I do not have a definable process. Some stories just flow and I write them down. Automatic writing. Other times I try and organize my story by outlining the premise, the characters, the situations, the problems, the conflicts and the conclusions.. Often I will organize my thoughts, but more than not, I will find that I rarely use the outline. Sometimes I work backwards, meaning that I know the conclusion of the story before I know how it begins.
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you only write when you feel inspired?
Every morning upon waking up, I write. If I am not working on a project, I journal, If I have a project, I will begin by reading what I have already written as a way to jump start the flow. Thoughts seem clearest first thing in the morning and I try to write down anything that I have been thinking about…deciding later whether it is worth continuing…and if not…I simply delete it. I write whether I am inspired or not…as an exercise.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
I think reading other authors is one of the key elements to one’s own writing. I have many favorite authors…though I am always amazed at discovering new and wonderful books. I love Annie LaMott’s style of writing, Margaret Atwood, John Irving, Sam Shepard, Patti Smith, Wallace Stegner, Robertson Davies, Thomas Hardy, Albert Camus.
Lastly, when can we readers expect to read more wonderful books from you?
Currently working on a novel that will tell the story of one family over a period of a few hundred years in the region of Bulgaria, Turkey, and the former Yugoslavia. I have no idea how long it will take me to complete this tome, as it is a book that requires a great deal of research.
Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with Yvette! If you have liked what you have read about Yvette and are interested in learning more about Yvette and reading Yvette’s work, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the preview too! You will not regret it.
"FRIENDSHIP is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die." David Whyte
"Progressive, populist, and grassroots constituencies have had many victories. Popular power has continued to be a profound force for change. And the changes we’ve undergone, both wonderful and terrible, are astonishing.
This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen. It’s also a nightmarish time. Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both. Hope doesn’t mean denying these realities. It means facing them and addressing them by remembering what else the twenty-first century has brought, including the movements, heroes, and shifts in consciousness that address these things now. This has been a truly remarkable decade for movement-building, social change, and deep, profound shifts in ideas, perspective, and frameworks for broad parts of the population (and, of course, backlashes against all those things).
It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings." Rebecca Solnit author of Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities
“When after heavy rain the storm clouds disperse, is it not that they’ve wept themselves clear to the end?”
Grief is one of the heart’s natural responses to loss. When we grieve we allow ourselves to feel the truth of our pain, the measure of betrayal or tragedy in our life. By our willingness to mourn, we slowly acknowledge, integrate, and accept the truth of our losses. Sometimes the best way to let go is to grieve.
It takes courage to grieve, to honor the pain we carry. We can grieve in tears or in meditative silence, in prayer or in song. In touching the pain of recent and long-held griefs, we come face to face with our genuine human vulnerability, with helplessness and hopelessness. These are the storm clouds of the heart.
Most traditional societies offer ritual and communal support to help people move through grief and loss. We need to respect our tears. Without a wise way to grieve, we can only soldier on, armored and unfeeling, but our hearts cannot learn and grow from the sorrows of the past.
To meditate on grief, let yourself sit, alone or with a comforting friend. Take the time to create an atmosphere of support. When you are ready, begin by sensing your breath. Feel your breathing in the area of your chest. This can help you become present to what is within you. Take one hand and hold is gently on your heart as if you were holding a vulnerable human being. You are.
As you continue to breathe, bring to mind the loss or pain you are grieving. Let the story, the images, the feelings comes naturally. Hold them gently. Take your time. Let the feelings come layer by layer, a little at a time.
Keep breathing softly, compassionately. Let whatever feelings are there, pain and tears, anger and love, fear and sorrow, come as they will. Touch them gently. Let them unravel out of your body and mind. Make space for any images that arise. Allow the whole story. Breathe and hold it all with tenderness and compassion. Kindness for it all, for you and for others.
The grief we carry is part of the grief of the world. Hold it gently. Let it be honored. You do not have to keep it in anymore. You can let it go into the heart of compassion; you can weep.
Releasing the grief we carry is a long, tear-filled process. Yet it follows the natural intelligence of the body and heart. Trust it, trust the unfolding. Along with meditation, some of your grief will want to be written, to be cried out, to be sung, to be danced. Let the timeless wisdom within you carry you through grief to an open heart.
The meditation is taken from the book, “The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace“
How do we measure our life? All the moments which make up the whole of it. What markers can we point to? Was it the moment when we grew an inch or ran a winning race? Or when we lost our nerve or made an honest assessment of who we believe we are. Does it matter at all, and is it all random?
Growing up seemed to be a process in which I measured myself against those who were growing up alongside me. They were the physical manifestation of how I measured myself well before I put any context to it. Did what I feel or what surprised me or the wisdoms hidden from my consciousness, still affect my actions—the core of who I was becoming, or might have become, if only? Did activity alone become what defined me? At some of those low points in the process of growing up, my mother would say what she would repeat often.
You will grow into yourself. Your time will come. Your maturity will tap you on the shoulder and tell you that you have arrived. You will blossom as we all eventually do. You must be patient.
It has been seven years since Betty's death, nine since my husband died; twenty-seven years since my father's life came to an end and thirty-two since my mother died. Their words still linger, and I sometimes whisper back, "Have I. Did I, Can I, Will I?" I look at the faces of my contemporaries and see how we have changed. How some of us have slipped away. How time has not always been patient with us. I get curious middle-of-the-night thoughts. The few last night were, if not surprising or particularly new, enlightening to me. I suppose transcribing our letters for this book of remembrance drew me back in time. The recognition that even the closest and most important people in our lives do not stay. Moments that you feel eternal, turn out to be transient. Losing touch with Betty for all those years struck that chord. While we could not have been closer, that friendship only inhabited a particular time in life, then moved in different directions and finally faded away.
I watched a film last evening about Joan Didion, produced by the brother of her late husband, John Dunne. She is a haunting figure now and in some ways I feel a connection that is haunting as well. Her husband died suddenly on the next to last day of December in 2003. I remember vividly one Sunday in 2004 probably, sitting in the car reading an article about her. The article was in connection to a book she wrote (The Year of Magical Thinking). We were in Connecticut visiting one of Dieter's clients. It was a second visit as I recall, one to take measurements again before he started her project. The article and the story stayed with me, with a sharp and clear recall, about the journey of losing one's husband so suddenly, so that when three years later my husband died, Joan Didion 's own tragedy, even sadder than my own, flooded back. Maybe that is why I wrote A Reluctant Life, though at the time that wasn't clear. But I couldn't read her book . Not until I finished mine. Then I did. She is a far better writer than I shall ever be, and yet I feel linked to her, and to the honesty of protraying grief in the honest way I did and the amazing way she did. Her daughter died while she was writing Magical Thinking or just shortly after....she was dead when Magical Thinking became a play and it wasn't till a few years later that she painfully wrote and finished the book Blue Nights...about that experience. Didion is now a shadow of her physical self. Grown old and frail and while always thin, now her skin is only lightly draped on her bones...but she lives. Her speech her words are short, brief, accompanied by almost wild hand and arm gestures to express those words. The smile is almost a grimace. The sadness pierces her every movement, and yet she lives. She is still heroically, hauntingly significant.
Yesterday I was tasked with looking through decades of photographs belonging to a great friend who died a few months ago. Her home of many dozen years was being cleared out. What struck me was the overwhelming reality of the journey our bodies take as we are living each of our days, months and years. Our body changes while I believe our spirit does not rearrange itself quite in the same way. Looking through the pictures of this one woman, I saw her as a cute baby, a lovely teenager, a young woman with children, a young woman gaunt and beautiful, changed through one of the sadder moments of her life, the middle-aged woman, still full of life, and the older woman still full of life but now with a body surrounded by weight, her soul still shining through. These days I spend some time recognizing my own metamorphosis...feeling the same as my thirty-year-old self, and wondering who that person is I am looking at in the mirror.
So Reading Ursula K. LeGuin Wave of the Mind, I felt keenly that she was able to say the words that exactly fit. At this time, her death recent, It seemed to me it would be a good way of keeping her alive and those still here, ever mindful.
"My mother died at eighty-three, of cancer, in pain, her spleen enlarged so that her body was misshapen. Is that the person I see when I think of her? Sometimes. I wish it were not. It is a true image, yet it blurs, it clouds, a truer image. It is one memory among fifty years of memories of my mother. It is the last in time. Beneath it, behind it is a deeper, complex, ever-changing image, made from imagination, hearsay, photographs, memories. I see a little red-haired child in the mountains of Colorado, a sad-faced, delicate college girl, a kind, smiling young mother, a brilliantly intellectual woman, a peerless flirt, a serious artist, a splendid cook—I see her rocking, weeding, writing, laughing — I see the turquoise bracelets on her delicate, freckled arm — I see, for a moment, all that at once, I glimpse what no mirror can reflect, the spirit flashing out across the years, beautiful.
That must be what the great artists see and paint. That must be why the tired, aged faces in Rembrandt’s portraits give us such delight: they show us beauty not skin-deep but life-deep."
by May Sarton
Alone one is never lonely: the spirit
In a quiet garden, in a cool house, abiding single there;
The spirit adventures in sleep, the sweet thirst-slaking
When only the moon’s reflection touches the wild hair.
There is no place more intimate than the spirit alone:
It finds a lovely certainty in the evening and the morning.
It is only where two have come together bone against bone
That those alonenesses take place, when, without warning
The sky opens over their heads to an infinite hole in space;
It is only turning at night to a lover that one learns
He is set apart like a star forever and that sleeping face
(For whom the heart has cried, for whom the frail hand burns)
Is swung out in the night alone, so luminous and still,
The waking spirit attends, the loving spirit gazes
Without communion, without touch, and comes to know at last
Out of a silence only and never when the body blazes
That love is present, that always burns alone, however steadfast.
ABSENCE. You who are not here, You who are missing in my body, Holes in my body, Places like holes, Like bullets made, Patches of agony, Swimming, From my feel, To my hands.
You who are gone, Missing from the place you lived in me, Instead of blood, Hollow veins, The groin is locked, You, The missing part of me, You, That disappeared
"A lot of people think or believe or know they feel — but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling — not knowing or believing or thinking.
Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself." e e cummngs
You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly — that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
— Anne Lamott
This quote seems even more important today than ever.
"In a world whose absurdity appears to be so impenetrable, we simply must reach a greater degree of understanding among men, a greater sincerity. We must achieve this or perish. To do so, certain conditions must be fulfilled: men must be frank (falsehood confuses things), free (communication is impossible with slaves). Finally, they must feel a certain justice around them." Albert Camus
The days have been cold and wet and has been for some time. One gets these middle-of-the-night thoughts...the one last night was, if not surprising or particularly new, enlightening to me. I suppose transcribing Betty and my letters for the new book I am putting together has placed me back in time. A recognition about how the closest and most important people in our lives move away. Moments that you felt somehow eternal, are transient. They cannot last. People are transient. Losing touch with Betty for twenty-nine years struck that chord. We could not have been closer, and yet that friendship inhabited a particular time in life, and then it ended. I can think of so many other people. She was an unknown by then. It makes it clearer to me what the Buddhists' say about loss, being in the now, and letting go. We do let go, but sometimes it takes time. More to the point seems to be that one can't assume that we will be tied together by virtue of a time spent together forever. There is no forever on this plane. Those ties will loosen and float away. Most often I accept that, as others do. We go on with our lives, remembering sometimes vaguely of those ties which for a period of time bound us to each other. That became clearer to me in the darkness of last night. We are no more, except maybe an occasional surfacing memory that will bring that time back to them or to me, for a moment. That particular kind of loss doesn't always feel real, until it does, and when it does, I understand completely the journey we travel on. The connections we have made and then have let go of. The memory of certain times from a backward look can be visceral and immediate, but no longer have the ability to stay or ever be again. There is sadness in this recognition, but the truth of loss of each moment of our lives that ended when that moment ended is what it is. Life IS immediate. What occupies me now will be over as it is being lived. We will step from each of our now moments to the next now moment. The parade of time really does move forward. You can stand in one place and you will still be moving. Now becomes then just like that. then...is now a memory. It no longer exists. It is a "was", a has- been. It will never happen again...If I counted and contemplated the seconds of my life, I would be struck deeply by the meaning of time, the filling of time. The movement of time. The inevitable change. We are not static. That's the realization which while not very clever, became very real and an amazing understanding that went towards acceptance.
The interesting thing is that now I have a different view. When I was young I was impatient for my future to begin, and now I am stuck in the life that already was. I have traveled through many years, seen every season many, many times. Sitting here on my tiny deck, a witness to so many decades swirling around my mind, I feel the full weight of those years. I moved through some of them with eyes half closed—at other times fully engaged in the demand that I take part in finding my particular place and recognizing all the reasons for needing to be here, discovering with some relief, that after all, none of this will matter in one hundred years.
"In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions — with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating — but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space" Joan Didion
From David Whyte;s book: Collision:
HEARTBREAK is unpreventable; the natural outcome of caring for people and things over which we have no control...Heartbreak begins the moment we are asked to let go but cannot, in other words, it colors and inhabits and magnifies each and every day; heartbreak is not a visitation, but a path that human beings follow through even the most average life. Heartbreak is an indication of our sincerity: in a love relationship, in a life's work, in trying to learn a musical instrument, in the attempt to shape a better more generous self. Heartbreak is the beautifully helpless side of love and affection and is [an] essence and emblem of care... Heartbreak has its own way of inhabiting time and its own beautiful and trying patience in coming and going.
I would simply like to reclaim an old and, alas, quite unfashionable private formula: Moderate enjoyment is double enjoyment. And: Do not overlook the little joys!In certain circles [moderation] requires courage to miss a première. In wider circles it takes courage not to have read a new publication several weeks after its appearance. In the widest circles of all, one is an object of ridicule if one has not read the daily paper. But I know people who feel no regret at exercising this courage.Let not the man* who subscribes to a weekly theater series feel that he is losing something if he makes use of it only every other week. I guarantee: he will gain.
Let anyone who is accustomed to looking at a great many pictures in an exhibition try just once, if he is still capable of it, spending an hour or more in front of a single masterpiece and content himself with that for the day. He will be the gainer by it.
Let the omnivorous reader try the same sort of thing. Sometimes he will be annoyed at not being able to join in conversation about some publication; occasionally he will cause smiles. But soon he will know better and do the smiling himself. And let any man who cannot bring himself to use any other kind of restraint try to make a habit of going to bed at ten o’clock at least once a week. He will be amazed at how richly this small sacrifice of time and pleasure will be rewarded.
In Simone deBeauvoir's autobiography, ALL SAID AND DONE, 1972, she talks about something that I have often contemplated and indeed experienced. Her words capture this experience far better than I can:
"Every morning, even before I open my eyes, I know I am in my bedroom and my bed. But if I go to sleep after lunch in the room where I work, sometimes I wake up with a feeling of childish amazement — why am I myself? What astonishes me, just as it astonishes a child when he becomes aware of his own identity, is the fact of finding myself here, and at this moment, deep in this life and not in any other. What stroke of chance has brought this about?
The penetration of that particular ovum by that particular spermatozoon, with its implications of the meeting of my parents and before that of their birth and the births of all their forebears, had not one chance in hundreds of millions of coming about. And it was chance, a chance quite unpredictable in the present state of science, that caused me to be born a woman. From that point on, it seems to me that a thousand different futures might have stemmed from every single movement of my past: I might have fallen ill and broken off my studies; I might not have met Sartre; anything at all might have happened.
Tossed into the world, I have been subjected to its laws and its contingencies, ruled by wills other than my own, by circumstance and by history: it is therefore reasonable for me to feel that I am myself contingent. What staggers me is that at the same time I am not contingent. If I had not been born no question would have arisen: I have to take the fact that I do exist as my starting point. To be sure, the future of the woman I have been may turn me into someone other than myself. But in that case it would be this other woman who would be asking herself who she was. For the person who says “Here am I” there is no other coexisting possibility. Yet this necessary coincidence of the subject and his history is not enough to do away with my perplexity. My life: it is both intimately known and remote; it defines me and yet I stand outside it."