Arts & Entertainment

Elisabeth Egan Discusses Writing, a South Orange Childhood, and Her Novel 'A Window Opens' at the South Orange Library

Nancy Janow (left) and Elisabeth Egan (right).
Nancy Janow (right) and Elisabeth Egan (left).
Nancy Janow introduces author Elisabeth Egan at the South Orange Library Book Review Group meeting.

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Monday night was a special one for the South Orange Library Book Review Group, which was joined by local author Elisabeth Egan, who read from and discussed her first novel, "A Window Opens."

Approximately 50 people were in attendance, more than the 20-25 people who join the book club on a usual week, according to Nancy Janow, Senior Library Assistant and Head of the South Orange Library Book Club.

Egan, who grew-up in South Orange and now lives in Montclair, shared with the audience her memories from many hours spent at the South Orange Public Library as a child. Egan told the crowd that her family moved to South Orange when she was nine, and that the very first place they went to was the library. Egan recalled that the library cards were "these little orange cards with a metal plate in the middle."

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"A Window Opens" looks at the themes of having it all and balancing work and family, as the book's heroine Alice Pearce pursues the "Holy Grail of working mothers—an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life." 

The book takes place in the fictional New Jersey town of Filament, which is loosely based on Montclair. The inspiration for the name Filament, Egan explained, came from her numerous trips to Edison's laboratory in West Orange as a child.
Egan describes "A Window Opens" as a "middle age coming of age story," and shared her belief that you can always make a major change or try something new, no matter your age or stage in life.
The book's first draft was written during a single summer while Egan waited for her daughter to complete daily 2-hour swim team practices each morning. Egan said that the first draft of the book came fairly easily, but the process from draft to completed novel was more difficult, with the final version of the book vastly different from the original version.

Egan also said that finding a publisher was not easy, and that she received 26 rejections before making rewrites that resulted in the book being picked-up by one of the publishers that had previously rejected it.
Egan described her family as "very bookish... there was nothing to do but read." Not surprisingly, in addition to being a writer, Egan is also the books editor at Glamour magazine.
It was during commutes to her day job that Egan completed much of the book aboard NJ Transit, which even gets a mention in the book's acknowledgments. Egan writes "thank you to the commuters and conductors on the Montclair-Boonton Line, where most of this book was written. Some writers have Yaddo or MacDowell; I have New Jersey Transit, whose horns are the soundtrack of home." Egan noted, that this must be the first time New Jersey Transit has been thanked in a book, and yet, "they weren't very moved."
Despite New Jersey Transit's indifference, Egan continues to write on the train during her commute. She is working on her next book, which focuses on different characters and themes, but also takes place in Filament, NJ.
For more information about the South Orange Library Book Review Group, contact Nancy Janow at 973-762-0230 or email her at Meetings are free and all are welcome to attend. Meetings are on the fourth Monday of the month at 7:30 p.m. in the Library Meeting Room.
The next author appearance is on April 25, when P. Golden will be there to discuss "Wherever There Is Light."

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