Monday, June 5, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway of Water Music by Marcia Peck

This moving and evocative mother-daughter story is set in the 1950s and conveys how fraught that time period was for women. Parts of the story were inspired by Marcia’s own experiences growing up.  
It is perfect for fans of Jeannette Walls.
 May 4, 2023
Sea Crow Press


“What happens when a writer plays cello in a professional orchestra for her entire career? Her prose soars. In Water Music, Marcia Peck traces one intricate, intimate melody through the symphonic complexity of a disintegrating family’s summer on Cape Cod. Music and love are interchangeable. Here is a book worthy of reading aloud—and cherishing.”—Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, author of Swinging on the Garden Gate

“Peck has written a moving and melodic triumph of imagination and story, a fine harmony of intimacies and passions.”—Nicole Helget, author of The Summer of Ordinary Ways, The Turtle Catcher, Stillwater



The bridge at Sagamore was closed when we got there that summer of 1956. We had to cross the canal at Buzzards Bay over the only other roadway that tethered Cape Cod to the mainland.

Thus twelve-year-old Lily Grainger, while safe from ‘communists and the Pope,’ finds her family suddenly adrift. That was the summer the Andrea Doria sank, pilot whales stranded, and Lily’s father built a house he couldn't afford. 

Target practice on a nearby decommissioned Liberty Ship echoed not only the rancor in her parents' marriage, a rancor stoked by Lily’s competitive uncle, but also Lily’s troubles with her sister, her cousins, and especially with her mother. 

In her increasingly desperate efforts tosalvage her parents' marriage, Lily discovers betrayals beyond her understanding as well as the small ways in which people try to rescue each other. 

She draws on her music lessons and her love of Cape Cod—from Sagamore and Monomoy to Nauset Spit and the Wellfleet Dunes, seeking safe passage from the limited world of her salt marsh to the larger, open ocean.



There was no bridge at Sagamore the summer of 1956. We had to cross the canal at 
Buzzards Bay over the one slender, arched roadway that tethered Cape Cod to the mainland. 
That was the summer the cello proved to be my steadiest companion, although I would h
ave had 
it otherwise. My mother had to make do without a piano of her own, which did not 
music had always been her refuge. And my father was dead set on building a cottage
built the 
way, which was to say, better than Uncle George’s
when w
e couldn’t afford it. We 
thought we spotted the 
Andrea Doria
moments before it sank. And I discovered the small ways 
in which people try to rescue each other. 

Our property fronted a salt pond whose fertile waters hatched clams the size of a toenail, 
nt eels no bigger than a bobby pin, and young crabs so fragile you could crush them between 
two fingers. When they matured, they found their way to the creek, an outlet booby
trapped with 
rocks from an old abandoned mill, and followed it out to Pleasant Ba
y, that vast shallow body of 
water which, like a long adolescence, spanned the distance between our pond and the full
fledged, fathomless ocean.
Tides filled and emptied our small world and I tried to figure out who belonged to whom. 
I longed to belong 
to my mother. But I learned that summer that she was like a teacup, spilled 
out and upside down on the saucer, and she couldn’t right herself. She thought she was mad at 
my father; she didn’t recognize that fiercer winds than his tore at her. All summer th
e storm 
gathered and gathered, took its breath from every direction we thought we knew, and lashed us 
into spindrift.
And all the while, surrounding us, holding us up like the sea we floated on, was the 



Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

Hardest character to write was Lily’s mother. To understand her, I had to place myself in the shoes of a talented, smart, isolated mother of two daughters in the 1950’s who longed to find meaning in her role.  
Easiest was Uncle George, the blow-hard.  

In your book you make a reference to the sinking of the Andrea did you come up with this idea? What made you write a book about...?

The sinking of that brand new, sleek ocean liner has always fascinated me. And when I learned that the Ile de France turned around, 40 miles out to sea to come to the princess ship’s aid and saved countless lives, I saw a parallel between the young ocean liner (Lily) and the older, reliable Ile de France (the steady mother Lily longed to have.)  

Where do you get inspiration for your stories? 

My stories grow from my own fictionalized experience, those people or situations that nag at me. The “what-ifs”.  
There are many books out there about complicated family dynamics...What makes yours different?

The difficulties Lily’s family grapple with are not only grounded in their own history, but are very much echoed in the landscape they inhabit. They are nourished by the bounty of the sea and salt air, but also threatened by storms and a changeable, often indifferent landscape.  
What advice would you give budding writers?   

Read!  And write!  It sounds foolishly obvious. But when we read what we love, we ingest those elements that make the writing work. And when we get something down on the page, it starts to tell us what comes next.

Your book is set in Cape Cod. Have you ever been there?

My family spent our summers on Cape Cod all through my childhood and adolescence, and I’ve felt spiritually bonded to that remarkable bit of land and sea all my life.  

Do you have another profession besides writing? 

I’m a cellist with a symphony orchestra. For me, that has been a perfect combination. In WATER MUSIC I kept thinking about the little motifs that recur in Wagner or Rachmaninoff, those little echoes that invisibly tie a work together.  

How long have you been writing? 

Forty-ish years.  I loved reading to my daughter when she was little. In fact I began reading to her almost from the day she was born. (And kept it up until she cut me off!) I began to journal when she was born, and before I knew it, I was trying to write short stories.

What is your next project?

I’m working on a novel about a stolen cello.  It’s part mystery, part love story, with an occasional dip into a parallel story in 1708.  

What genre do you write and why?

I didn’t set out to fit into any specific genre.  Maybe that’s a failing, but once I begin a book, I try to follow where it leads.  

What is the last great book you’ve read?

Wow, I wish I were a faster reader because there are SO MANY out there!  I loved A Gentleman in Moscow. A friend gave me Fresh Water for Flowers by Valerie Perrin, a wonderful, leisurely read.  

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing your book?

Biggest challenge is having a full-time job. In some ways that can be a plus, letting the subconscious work while away from the writing. But it’s hard to keep an entire book in my head if I’m not spending time with it every day. So I would spend every spare moment writing for six months, and then take six months off to do laundry.  

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?

Fraught with signs of hope, rejection, learning new skills, a huge time drain, and finally…euphoria.  

Which authors inspired you to write? 

The first book I ever remember falling in love with was BLUE WILLOW by Doris Gates. I was ecstatic when I discovered it’s still in print. It’s been called the GRAPES OF WRATH for children. Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetry made a big impression on me in high school even though I knew I didn’t “get” it. Others who have stuck with me vividly: Don Marquis (Archie and Mehitabel), John Gardner, Arundhati Roy.


On rituals:

Where do you write?

I’m lucky enough to have a small “writing room” that overlooks the backyard. It’s stocked with my trusty Strunk and White, strewn with various drafts and edits, and blotched with coffee stains.  

Do you write every day?

Gosh, no. I’ll write every day for months, and then take a few months off to catch my breath and sort laundry.  

What is your writing schedule?

I’m best in the morning. But having been a musician my whole life, I find I can sometimes “tune up” at about 8pm.   

Is there a specific ritualistic thing you do during your writing time?

I try to empty my head. I meditate (with an app) for ten or twenty minutes before I begin to write.  

In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

I absolutely believe in getting my shitty first drafts down on actual paper. There is something about the friction of the pen on paper, the motion of my hand, the time it takes for the words to form. But, wow. On the other hand, I’m always stunned at all the fabulous books that were written before their writers could revise on a laptop!


Fun stuff:

If you were stuck on a deserted island, which 3 books would you want with you?

Hmmm… The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, and Archie and Mehitabel by Don Marquis

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

Two things: Climb the Grand Teton and perform an unaccompanied Bach Suite

Any hobbies? or Name a quirky thing you like to do.

I consider myself a mycophile (mushroom hunter). But have gotten awfully rusty, so these days I confine myself to a couple of the choicest (and easiest to identify).  

What TV series are you currently binge watching?

Paris Murders, Modern Love

What is your go-to breakfast item?

Egg Bites and decaf

What is the oldest item of clothing you own?

I have a skirt that my mother made for me a very long time ago.  

Tell us about your longest friendship.

Still close to my best friend from kindergarten. In fact we still get together for a long weekend every other year with our eight other girlfriends from Belleville High School, even though we live all over the country.  

What is the strangest way you've become friends with someone?

I met a boy on a train in Austria when I was 16. We became lifelong friends, visiting each other and our respective parents, spouses and children on two continents.




Marcia Peck’swriting has received a variety of awards, including New Millenium Writings (First prize for “Memento Mori”) and Lake Superior Writers’ Conference (First Prize for “Pride and Humility”). 

Her articles have appeared in Musical America, Strad Magazine, Strings Magazine, Senza Sordino, and the op-ed pages of the Minneapolis StarTribune. 

Marcia’s fiction has appeared in Chautauqua Journal, New Millenium Writings, Gemini Magazine, and Glimmer Train, among others. Growing up in New Jersey with parents who were both musicians, Marcia set out to be the best cellist she could be. 

She spent two years studying in Germany in the Master Class of the renowned Italian cellist, Antonio Janigro. 

Since then she has spent her musical career with the Minnesota Orchestra, where she met and married the handsome fourth horn player.Marcia has always been a cat person. 

But she has learned to love dogs—even the naughty ones, maybe especially the naughty ones. 





When I decided to set WATER MUSIC in the 50’s on Cape Cod, I hadn’t heard about the 
1952 sea rescue of the Pendleton, a tanker split in two in a howling winter nor’easter ten miles 
off the coast from Chatham, Mass. Four young coast guardsmen
in a wooden bo
at meant to 
hold 16
were dispatched to rescue 32 sailors. Enroute, the windshield and compass of the 
rescue motorboat itself were destroyed by a crashing wave. Navigating only by their wits and 
instinct in freezing temperatures and high seas, they saved 31
of the 32 sailors. The Coast Guard 
considers it the greatest rescue by a small boat in its history.
When I finally read an account of the Pendleton rescue and was inspired by the bravery 
of four supposedly (!) unremarkable young men, I knew the setting
of WATER MUSIC would 
come to play a central role in the book. I, myself, had spent summers there when I was growing 
up and had come to love not only the extraordinary ocean beaches and kid
friendly bayside 
beaches, but also the saltwater coves and ponds, 
the mysterious crustaceans, even the ubiquitous 
Somehow, as I was writing, that mysterious border where sea meets land seemed to 
manifest the friction in Lily Grainger’s family. The erosion in the relationship between eleven
old Lily and her m
other became anchored in the landscape. As I was writing, I tried to listen 
to remembered rhythmic tides or storm warnings that echoed the push
pull of the extended 
family dynamic. That gave me the courage to go all in on letting the wind and weather mirro
r the 
family’s troubles. 


A Symphony Musician’s Writing Life...

If I had a goal, when learning to play the cello from an early age, it was to become the 
best cellist I could be. I had good teachers, parents who made sure I practiced every day, and a 
developing love for the music I was striving to master. 
Although it 
all seemed inevitable for the daughter of two musicians, none of it
trying to 
master an instrument
really came naturally. There were hours of repetition, listening, 
analyzing, and correcting. It didn’t occur to me that something that felt like second natur
something I loved to do with being prompted
might carry the same value as that 
which required so many hours of dedicated practice.
I’m not sure when my love of reading transformed to include a love of writing, but I am 
sure that it happened g
radually. And with it came the realization that writing, too, requires many, 
many hours of dedicated practice and revision, listening, analyzing, correcting.

Perhaps my unsuccessful attempts to memorize T.S Eliot or Shakespeare sonnets led me, 
ly, to start to recognize the music in language. And the reverse. Over time, the 
storytelling to be found in music began to reveal itself to me. Not in an academic sense, but in an 
intuitive way. More felt than studied. A symphony by Brahms or Prokofiev ha
s something to tell 
us. Something with an arc.
It’s thrilling to sit in the midst of a hundred musicians mid
performance, each involved in 
a bit of legerdemain, each working from a blueprint of the whole arc as well as his or her own 
part, immersed in h
is own mind, fingers, breath; all while attuned to what his ears are telling 
him, all balls in the air. To me it often feels as if I’m part of a moving train: relentlessly traveling 
through time. Propelled by a sense of inevitability, everything in motion,
pressing on toward the 
coda. Just like the novels we love to read. And hope to emulate. 


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1 comment:

  1. This looks like a fascinating novel. Thanks for sharing!