Alumna Michele Herman '85 to Publish Novel and Chapbook in 2022
BY Nicole Saldarriaga, April 7, 2021
Nonfiction alumna Michele Herman '85 will publish her debut novel, Save the Village, in February, 2022 through Regal House Publishing. Her second poetry chapbook, Just Another Jack: The Private Lives of Nursery Rhymes, will also be published in early 2022 by Finishing Line Press.
Save the Village, which Regal House called "utterly engaging and beautifully written," follows protagonist Becca Cammeyer, a tour guide in Greenwich village whose life didn't go nearly as planned. Instead of making it to Broadway, she's living paycheck to paycheck, not speaking to her family, and is still single. After she leads a nearly-perfect tour for a group of women from South Carolina, Becca's life is turned around even more by a terrible tragedy, and she is forced to come to terms with the messiness of her life.
According to Herman, the roots of the novel can be traced all the way back to 1985 when she and her boyfriend (now husband) moved to the West Village and befriended local historial Michael Levin. "He taught us about the origins of Greenwich Village and showed us all the highlights," she said, "...We became so enthralled with Village history and Village architecture that we threw ourselves into local preservation organizations, particularly one called Save the Village, named in homage to Jane Jacobs' earlier group of the same name.
"In 1985, the year I finished my MFA...I never dreamed I had a novel in me, but in Philip Schultz's master class at The Writer's Studio I often found myself creating Village characters and telling Village stories. Phil was always prodding me to be more ambitious in my storytelling; this was the phrase he used: 'You have to be willing to put your characters in harm's way.' So you can see how Save the Village and its protagonist...came to occupy my imagination, and how I came to invent the cataclysm that sets the story in motion."
Herman's chapbook similarly explores a cast of characters and their inner complexities, this time inspired by nursery rhyme characters. The chapbook grew out of one of Herman's earlier poems, "The Oldest Child's Lament," which was published in Herman's first chapbook, Victory Boulevard (Finishing Line Press, 2018).
I was working with a student who’s extremely conscientious while also being extremely hard on herself," said Herman of the poem's origin. "One day she chalked her habits up to 'oldest daughter’s syndrome.' I’m an oldest daughter too, and I realized I have the syndrome too. I got to thinking that I’d like to write about it, but I sensed that it would fall flat if I went at the subject directly, so I wondered who else might have a raging case of oldest daughter’s syndrome. Voila… I came up with the oldest daughter of the old woman who lived in a shoe. I had so much fun imagining her life that over a period of a couple of years I imagined my way into the world of seven other nursery-rhyme characters, each with his or her own complexities."
Michele Herman's poems, stories, essays and articles have been widely published in literary journals, newspapers and magazines. A recipient of several writing awards, she teaches at The Writers Studio, works as a developmental editor and writing coach, writes columns for The Villager, translates French songs, and performs her own work in cabaret and theatrical settings. She is the mother of two grown sons and lives with her husband in Greenwich Village.