We met in Brooklyn.

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

She had written two novels.

I was writing my first memoir.

She lived with her family close to Fort Greene, where we were living in a high rise apartment, taking care of our grandson in another high rise close by.

Our meeting was mostly online.

But we did have one lovely lunch. We went to the historic Algonquin Hotel. This video shows you not only the hotel but the famous round table and the painting “The Vicious Circle,” depicting the literary giants of the 1920’s and 30’s who used to gather here. I liked to imagine that Dorothy Parker’s laughter still floated above the chandeliers.

Soon after that lunch, I left New York for Virginia. Both of us doubled down on our books. That could have been the end of our little FriendStory.

However, we stayed in touch on Facebook.

Miranda got a contract with Crown publishers for Bittersweet: A Novel. Since then, she has been doing the most amazing things to lay the groundwork for her book. She started a blog a whole year before the launch date of the book to share how she is preparing. Her first two books won prestigious prizes, and her next one already has fifteen reviews on Goodreads. What’s even more exciting, Entertainment Weekly named her one of fourteen stars to watch in 2014.

I haven’t read Bittersweet yet, but I plan to. I’m part of a community of people attracted to Miranda because she’s attracted to life itself, to gripping stories told in beautiful ways, and to the connection between reader and writer. In service of that last idea, she is using this long stretch before the publication of her book to create her fascinating booklaunch blog (see link below).

Today my cousin Mary Ann stars as the friend on Miranda’s Friendstory website. Please visit here to read the story and discover how we stumbled into trouble together at age thirteen.

Do you have cousin friends? I’d love to hear your story. Miranda would too! Tell it below or on the FriendStory page.

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore is the author of three novels: Bittersweet (Crown, May 2014); Set Me Free (2007), which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for the best book of fiction by an American woman published that year; and The Effects of Light (2005). Winner of the CrazyhorseFiction Prize, she lives and works in Brooklyn and Vermont. You can find her on her website, her book launch blog, or FriendStories.com.

Link for website: http://mirandabw.com
Link for booklaunch blog: http://wegrowmedia.com/bittersweet/
Link for FriendStories.com: http://friendstories.com

Shirley Showalter


  1. Marian Beaman on February 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    This is the second time I’ve clicked on Miranda’s website, the first time prompted by her comment on one of your posts, Shirley. You have this wonderful habit of hospitality to other writers, bless you for that.

    About the story featuring you and cousin Mary Ann: Not surprisingly, this theme runs parallel to a story I posted last April “A Walk in the Woods: Innocence and Disgrace.” Yes, I do have cousin friends too, but they will probably appear in future writing-ha!

    Miranda, I admire your devotion to your craft and your facility in more than one genre. Amazing, I’d say. Thank you both.

    • shirleyhs on February 8, 2014 at 11:38 am

      Marian, I wrote, then lost, a reply to you a few days ago. 🙁 Spotty internet here in Mexico.

      But thanks so much, as always. I look forward to more cousin adventures from you!

  2. Laurie Buchanan on February 6, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    Shirley – It wasn’t long ago that t learned of Miranda through you (thank you) and submitted a story to her (that was accepted). I’m not sure when it’s going to appear, but I’m heading over there now to read your cousin’s story.

    Growing up my cousin Veronica (Ronnie) was my friend. She was the one who encouraged me (egged me on) to pluck ALL of my eyebrows out just before my freshman photograph. In the aftermath, I no longer had a “four” head. Rather, I had a “nine” head — with no eyebrows, it was expansive, to say the least!

    • shirleyhs on February 7, 2014 at 10:58 am

      Laurie, you are making me laugh in the Mexican sunshine this morning. The things we do in youth — and cousins, especially older ones, have even more pressure to exert on us than other peers. Thanks for staying in touch. Posting from this kind of wireless set up has been a challenge, but worth it!

      I’m delighted to know you have a friend story of your own accepted by Miranda! Let me know when it comes out. I’ll enjoy reading and sharing.

  3. Tina Fariss Barbour on February 6, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Shirley, I remember that story from your book–I loved the way you two were such good friends. I grew up with many cousins–first and first-once-removed and second. One, Pat, was a good friend growing up. She’s just 4 months older than me. As we became teens, she seemed to adapt to adolescence so much easier than I did. She seemed ahead of me. Now, in middle age, we’re more alike than I thought we were. 🙂

    Just a note: I want to do a review of your book on my blog in the near future, if that’s OK with you. I LOVED it, and it’s still very much alive in my imagination. 🙂

    • shirleyhs on February 7, 2014 at 11:02 am

      Tina, you definitely described my experience as a cousin over time. Mary Ann has been so gracious in letting me turn her into a character in a book and in her words of appreciation for the book.

      Of course I’d love to have you review BLUSH, Tina! My publisher might even give you a copy to offer to someone who comments if you want to do that. I think you have my email address?

    • Tina Fariss Barbour on February 8, 2014 at 11:20 pm

      Yes, Shirley, I do, and I will be in touch!

  4. Becky Povich on February 8, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Oh, Shirley! I was almost finished with a long comment about a cousin of mine, and I did something wrong and lost it! 🙁
    I promise to come back later and rewrite it. For now, I’m too aggravated at myself! LOL

    • shirleyhs on February 8, 2014 at 11:41 am

      Becky, as you see above, I had exactly the same thing happen to me. I feel your pain!

      I’d love to hear your cousin story — at the right time.

  5. Sherrey Meyer on February 9, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Shirley, thanks for the introduction to Miranda. I followed you over to her site, Friend Stories, and left a comment there on your cousin friendship. You always seem to find and share the most interesting people!

    • shirleyhs on February 9, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      Thanks, Sherrey. I’m so glad you found Miranda also. She’s a gem. So are you!

  6. Dan Blank on February 12, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Love this, especially: “Both of us doubled down on our books.”

    Thank you.

    • shirleyhs on February 12, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      Thank you, Dan! You have taught us both that the most important thing a writer does is find her own story and tell it well. Readers love books that ignite memories of their own stories, and thus, the best marketing is also the best writing — especially when someone like YOU guides the process of connection. Very grateful.

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