We are happy to welcome Pesi Dinnerstein (a.k.a. Paulette Plonchak) for her blog tour with Women on Writing!
Dinnerstein recently retired as a full-time faculty member of the City University of New York, where she taught language skills for close to thirty years. She has been an aspiring author and self-acknowledged clutterer for many years, and has spent the better part of her life trying to get organized and out from under. Despite heroic efforts, she has not yet succeeded; but she continues to push onward, and hopes that her journey will inspire others to keep trying as well.
For more information visit: www.aclutteredlife.com.
A CLUTTERED LIFE: Living It, Writing It, Publishing It
I never wanted to write a memoir. Everything about it scared me. And, now that I’ve actually done it, I must say that most of my fears were very well founded.
When I first came up with the idea of writing a book about my relationship with clutter, I immediately sensed the potential danger there. I wasn’t ready to come out of the closet just yet and reveal to the world the extent of my dysfunction. So, I decided to tell my story through a series of essays—an approach that I hoped would help me maintain a comfortable distance from the subject. I could step back if I felt too vulnerable or—in rare moments of courage—zoom in for a close-up. It was the perfect solution. Except it didn’t work.
My dear friend Yitta Halberstam (of Small Miracles fame) had watched me dance around this project for years and never really move forward with it. Finally, she decided to present my idea to her own agent, Jane Dystel. Jane asked to see a brief description of the book; and, within a matter of days, I was staring in disbelief at a contract.
The only problem was that instead of going with my book of safe essays, Jane thought I should explore the subject in the form of a memoir—which meant, of course, a greater degree of self-exposure than I felt ready for. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. How could I say no to Jane?—but how could I say yes?
Then, it occurred to me that beneath all my resistance, there must be a layer of memories and feelings that I’ve been afraid to approach for a very long time. Suddenly, my desire to connect with them began to overcome my fear. If writing a memoir could put me in touch with these hidden parts of myself, then writing a memoir was what I wanted to do—no matter how much discomfort it caused. In fact, it was all that I wanted to do. And, with that, I felt ready—and eager—to move on.
However, there wasn’t very much to move on to at this point. I had no plan of action, no book proposal, and no real sense of how the writing would unfold.
“Well, you better get to work, then,” Jane said. “And the sooner, the better.”
Getting to work meant first learning how to use the new computer I had just purchased several months earlier (my very first ever), organizing my thoughts (always a challenge), and trying to get it all down on paper really, really fast (another first for me). Time, Jane assured me, was not on my side; and there was no room for my usual procrastination.
Before long—thanks largely to Jane’s persistence—the proposal was up and running. (Unfortunately, this occurred in September, 2008—just as the stock market crashed—when most publishers were hardly in the mood for risky investments with first-time authors). Nevertheless, after a flurry of rejections, we received a letter of interest from Seal Press and, eventually, a contract.
Now, I really had to write a memoir. And—while my need for privacy and my desire to share with others continued to battle it out every step of the way—in the end, I pulled up the shades, threw open the windows, and invited everyone who was interested to come in, see my cluttered life, and continue along with me on my journey.
I hope you that you’ll check out Pesi’s book which is finished and available to read: A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity, and My Missing Keys. www.sealpress.com
Read more information about the book:
Insightful, unsettling, and wildly funny, A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity, and My Missing Keys (Seal Press) is the story of Pesi Dinnerstein’s quest to create a simple and orderly life—only to discover that simplicity is not so simple and what constitutes clutter is not always perfectly clear. When a chance encounter with an old acquaintance reveals the extent to which disorder has crept into every corner of her existence, Pesi determines to free herself, once and for all, of the excess baggage she carries with her. Along the way—with the help of devoted friends, a twelve-step recovery program, and a bit of Kabbalistic wisdom—her battle with chaos is transformed into an unexpected journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening.