Countdown to Muse 2021: Small Victories by Margot Livesey

The Muse and the Marketplace 2021 is almost here! This year's conference is taking the form of a virtual enhanced writing residency (taking place Wednesday, April 21st - Sunday, April 25th) with new Premium Workshops and the Manuscript Mart (taking place Wednesday, April 28th - Sunday, May 2nd).


This year's conference theme is "Small Victories." We all know what the "big" victories are (landing an agent, snagging a book deal, or getting a flashy award), but this year we aim to celebrate the equally important, tiny, and often unseen victories of our writing lives. In anticipation of the conference, we've asked Muse 2021 presenting authors to describe one small victory they've had as a writer that nobody knows about. Our next presenter in the series is Margot Livesey, author of The Boy in the Field.



In September 1987, on a train from Edinburgh to London I wrote the words, “Eva moves the furniture,” in my diary and began a novel. 


In May 1990, I drove a moving van to my office at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh – I was leaving the next day for Boston – and sat down to write the last chapter of the novel. I was determined not to leave the office until it was written. 


After seven completely different drafts, written over more than twelve years, I finally had a draft that I thought worked. I had long given up any hope of publication – innumerable agents and editors had rejected the novel – but I wanted to finish it to my own satisfaction, to close the book on my long struggle to imagine a version of my mother’s short life.


Eight hours later, tears running down my cheeks, I wrote the last paragraph of the novel. Like Lily Briscoe at the end of To the Lighthouse, I had had my vision. I was delighted when Eva Moves the Furniture went on to find a publisher but the real moment of triumph was that afternoon, when, after many detours and wrong turns, I finally reached the place I’d been traveling towards all along.



Margot Livesey grew up on the edge of the Scottish Highlands and has taught in numerous writing programs including Emerson College, Boston University, Bowdoin College and the Warren Wilson low residency MFA program. She is the author of a collection of stories and nine novels, including Eva Moves the Furniture and The Flight of Gemma Hardy. The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing was published in July, 2017. She lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband, a painter, and is on the faculty of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her ninth novel, The Boy in the Field, was published in August 2020.



You can catch Julie's virtual craft discussion with Margot Livesey, "The Train Stops Here: Revision Essentials," via Attendify at the Muse 2021 from 10:00 am - 11:15 am (EDT) on April 25th, 2021. Don't wait! Register for the Muse and the Marketplace 2021 today.

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About the Author

Margot Livesey was born and grew up on the edge of the Scottish Highlands. She has taught in numerous writing programs including the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Boston University, and the Warren Wilson MFA program, and is the author of a collection of stories and six novels, including Eva Moves The Furniture and most recently The House On Fortune Street which won the LL Winship/PEN New England award. She lives in Cambridge and is a distinguished writer-in-residence at Emerson College in Boston. Her novel, The Flight of Gemma Hardy, was published early in 2012.

See other articles by Margot Livesey
by Margot Livesey

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