Inspired by her own personal struggles in her life and the endless battle of seeking true success and self-worth, Mary Laura Philpott is releasing a collection of essays in her new book, “I Miss You When I Blink.”
Philpott’s book is the culmination of work spanning about three years, and on April 12, readers will have the opportunity to learn about her thought process while creating the book and also have their own signed copies of the new work.
We talked to Mary Laura to find out more about what her new book is about and the important message she hopes to convey to readers.
The Red & Black: Your new book “I Miss You When I Blink” is set to be released on April 2. How are you feeling about the release?
Mary Laura Philpott: I am so excited, but I’m also having one of those surreal life moments where I know — intellectually — that the book is about to come out, but I also can’t believe that it’s actually coming out ... It’s just been me and my book and my laptop and my brain for so many years, so the fact that it’s about to finally be out where other people can see it just boggles my mind.
R&B: Your book is a collection of essays. Have you written books like this before?
MP: This is my second book and actually my first essay collection. My first book, “Penguins with People Problems,” was actually a book of cartoons that came out in 2015 … It’s cute and funny and a good gift-giving book. “I Miss You When I Blink” is so different from that one that it feels, in many ways, like my first book. However, I’ve always written essays that were published one at a time in newspapers … such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Paris Review.
R&B: What are your essays about?
MP: On the surface, each essay is about different topics. However, when I started writing essays for the collection and looked at them all together, I realized that in many ways I was addressing the same questions, such as “When you do all the things that you’re supposed to do to be a successful adult but you don’t actually feel successful, what do you do?” or “What do you do when you’re the kind of person who always likes to get the right answers and you get into adulthood and you realize there is no correct answer?”
R&B: Were these types of themes the inspirations behind your book?
MP: In the beginning, I actually thought the book would be a humor collection. I was well into that process, maybe two-thirds of the way in, and I kept trying to figure out how I was going to finish this book. And then I thought, “The essays actually have a way more unifying thread.” Coming to that realization is what got me through the book.
R&B: When did you know that you wanted to write books?
MP: I have always been a writer, and the beginning of the book actually includes stuff about my childhood and writing. However, I went through school thinking I was going to be pre-med because everyone in my family was a doctor. If you go back and look at me as a kid, I was writing stories.
R&B: What do you hope readers gain from reading your new book?
MP: I hope that anybody who feels alone in their frustration about the conflict between what they want to be and what they think they are will be able to learn that it’s super common and normal to think that way… I also hope that this book can tell younger people that it’s OK to quit things. It’s OK to quit a job or whatever kind of commitment you’ve spent time on and decide to give yourself permission to change.
R&B: Can you tell me a little bit about your upcoming event in Athens at Avid?
MP: It’s a conversation and a book signing. I’m going to be having a conversation that’s guided by an interview with Tyler Goodson, who’s a bookseller at Avid. We’ll talk about the book and what it’s about. I really hope that anyone who’s … a liberal arts major will come out to the event. We’re going to be talking about what to do when you’re a creative person and you’ve followed your passion academically, but now you have to be an adult and think about your paychecks and how to manage that.
R&B: What’s your favorite book of all time?
MP: That’s an unfair question. It’s impossible. I can think of ways to narrow it down, though. There are just so many good books, but I’m a huge David Sedaris fan and he’s straight up there at the top of my list. I love Nora Ephron as well, and her movies are really good.