Litzenburger, a newly-40 blonde who grew up in Harbor Springs and now calls the Grand Rapids area home, can credit some of her good fortune to nine-year-old Annie Child.
Annie, the diminutive heroine of Litzenburgers new collection of linked stories Now You Love Me, has been rediscovered. First published in 2001 by Carnegie Mellon University Press, Now You Love Me has become not only Litzenburgers first book but also her second, thanks to its recent re-publication by new publisher Shaye Areheart.
And while the unusual nature of the twice-issued books past sets it apart, what distinguishes the stories is Litzenburgers convincing prose.
Set in fictional Point Harbor, a rough approximation of Harbor Springs, Now You Love Me begins soon after Annies father abandons his family. Annie and younger brother Gus cling to the notion that their father was on a trip and that he would be gone for a while. Annie, who navigates the space between her mother, Paiges detachment and her brothers naivety, decides to go on pretending to believe about the trip because it was easier.
Annies combination of childish optimism and burgeoning awareness is a credit to Litzenburgers lucid understanding of what often keeps families together; more hope than hard work, more fantasy than fact, as well as how children perceive the world in fits and starts.
Litzenburger believes that Annie is learning about how the adult works, and how love can be fleeting or conditional, but how theres always some constant in it.
In between the dual publications of Now You Love Me, Litzenburger scored another prize with the summer 2006 publication of The Widower. Also set in the fictional precincts of Northern Michigan, The Widower tells the braided tale of hard working characters damaged by a collision of events beyond their control. Among her credible creations is an orchard owner broken by a tragic car accident and a hurting ex-convict struggling to reconstruct his family.
Litzenburger says it is a constant balancing act to produce such convincing fiction. On one hand you want to appeal to your readers, whoever they are, she acknowledges. But on the other hand, you have to block that out, she says of the need she feels to keep writing what works for her. Some people will like what you write, some people will dislike what you write, and some will fall in between. In the end, she believes the most important lesson is not to second guess yourself.
Litzenburger, who likes to write in the mornings when she believes her defenses might be down a bit, admits the success of both books, including the Pushcart Prize she earned when Now You Love Me was first published, provides her satisfaction, though it has not allowed her to let down her guard. It gives you confidence, publishing a book, she says. But there are also more things to worry about, she continues. When you have an imaginary audience its one thing, but when people are reading your work its something else, she says of the need to reconcile both what she wants and what her readers are coming to expect.
Having spent much of her youth in Harbor Springs, Litzenburger suggest the setting of Now You Love Me is purposeful and reflects the memories of her youth. I dont set out to write about a certain place, but its so much a part of who I am, and who my characters are, she says.
Though the setting might spring from the authors background, she says the storyline is strictly fiction. Nothing in any of my novels literally happened. Nonetheless, she hopes emotionally you can identify with the characters.
Eventually Annie Child understands her father is not coming home. She instead turns to hopes for her mother and Shepherd Nash, the piano playing electrician intent on romancing Paige Child.
And though Paige isnt sure she can let herself be swayed, Annie is completely ready. Dancing with Shepherd on a frosty night, Annie thinks of something perfect the way a piece of a dream comes flying back like a bird. She has lost her father, but she is rediscovering the necessity of family.
That a precocious nine-year-old can recognize the power of rediscovery is reason enough to discover the prose of